“I wasn't sure what I could say to you,” she said. “I wanted to say the right thing. And I was really nervous that I wouldn’t, or that it would get picked apart, and I realized: The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.”
“Because George Floyd’s life mattered, and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t know.”
In her first public remarks on the unrest, the duchess recalled a teacher telling her, “Always remember to put others’ needs before your own fears.”
“That has stuck with me through my entire life,” she said, “and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before.”
The former “Suits” actress went on to share her own story as a biracial woman growing up in California. Meghan, who has a white father and a black mother, recalled being 11 years old when her hometown of Los Angeles descended into similar riots in 1992 after the acquittal of four LAPD officers who were videotaped violently beating Rodney King during his arrest the year before.
“I remember the curfew, and I remember rushing back home and on that drive home, seeing ash fall from the sky and smelling the smoke and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out of buildings, carrying bags and looting,” she said.
“And I remember seeing men in the back of a van holding guns and rifles, and I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.’’
Meghan encouraged graduates to become leaders during this challenging time and to make their voices heard through voting.
“You are going to lead with love. You are going to lead with compassion. You are going to use your voice."
“You are going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to, because most of you are 18, or you’re going to turn 18, so you’re going to vote. You are going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do — because with as diverse, vibrant and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter.”
It comes as no surprise that Meghan spoke out about the current turmoil given past racist experiences with the press. Her speech comes months after she and Prince Harry stepped back from their roles as full-time members of the British royal family and moved to Los Angeles with their son, Archie, in part due to the intense scrutiny of British tabloids.
Since the news of their relationship broke nearly four years ago, British tabloid interest in the couple has been persistent and often malicious.
In 2016, the Daily Mail published a story with the headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton,” portraying the L.A. neighborhood of Meghan’s mother, Doria, as “run-down” and “gang-afflicted.”
Days later, Prince Harry issued an atypically blistering statement in which he called out racist media coverage of his then-girlfriend, though it did not end there.
Soon after Archie’s birth, British radio host Danny Baker was fired from the BBC for writing a tweet that compared the newborn to a chimpanzee.
The tabloids continued to push negative stories, claiming Meghan and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, have a strained relationship which has caused a rift between Harry and his brother, William, the Duke of Cambridge. Other stories circulated, alleging Meghan had diva-like demands and mistreated palace staff, as royal fans have blamed her for the couple’s more private approach to public life.
The media’s personal attacks exhibit a conscious and unconscious bias that is not lost on the duchess.
“I know sometimes people say, ‘How many times do we need to rebuild?’’’ Meghan said in her graduation address. “Well, you know what? We are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”