Meghan Markle is opening up about her family’s history with racism and the discrimination she has experienced being biracial.
The 35-year-old actress, whose mother is African-American and father is Caucasian, penned a candid essay in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day for TheTig.com — the “inspirational lifestyle” website she founded and serves as Editor-in-Chief.
The piece was first written in 2015, and shared again on Monday.
In the editorial, Markle remembers a story told to her by her maternal grandfather when she was just 11 years old — at a time when “road trips to me were a collection of ‘Are we there yet?’s, the license plate game, the drive-throughs for filler food (where McDonalds was less of a treat and more of the norm), photo ops by signs welcoming you from one state to the next, and stops at local restaurants to stretch your legs.”
Her grandfather, Alvin, had a different experience when he and his wife decided to pack up their car and move the family from Ohio to California. Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, was around 7 when it happened — and eating fast food on a road trip wasn’t as easy.
“‘Meggie, on our road trip, when we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken, we had to go to the back for ‘coloreds,’” Markle remember Alvin telling her. “The kitchen staff handed me the chicken from the back door and we ate in the parking lot. That’s just what it was.’”
The story left a lasting impression on the Suits star. “That story still haunts me,” she explained. “It reminds me of how young our country is. How far we’ve come and how far we still have to come.”
It also reminded Markle of her own experiences with discrimination, including an experience she had with her mother and the “countless black jokes” told in front of her by people who don’t realize she is “mixed” — those unaware of her status as “the ethnically ambiguous fly on the wall.”
“It makes me wonder what my parents experienced as a mixed race couple,” she wrote. “It echoes the time my mom and I were leaving a concert at The Hollywood Bowl, and a woman called her the ‘N’ word because she was taking too long to pull out of the parking spot. I remember how hot my skin felt. How it scorched the air around me.”
Markle ended her note by thanking those who have paved the way before her.
“To Martin Luther King Jr., to Harvey Milk, to Gloria Steinem and Cesar Chavez, to my mom and dad for choosing each other not for the ‘color of their skin, but the content of their character,’ to all of you champions of change: Thank you,” she said.