Meghan, Andrew & Me
It’s been another tough week; an unusual kind of tough for me. As a former “red diaper” baby, used to fighting for minorities, oppressed peoples, and unpopular causes my entire life, I suddenly find myself on what may be the opposite side of the fence, and it doesn’t feel comfortable.
I’ve marched for Black rights, Women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, against imperialist wars, ICE, and for Occupy Wall Street. I was one of two female students in my Ph.D. program, and was told by the interviewer for another university that, although I was more qualified than most of the male students being admitted, they didn’t want to fill a spot with a woman who would most likely marry, leave and stay home with children. (I did marry and have children during my Ph.D. program, but I didn’t leave.) I later testified before Eleanor Holmes Norton’s discrimination against women hearings about being denied an NIH grant to complete my Ph.D. thesis because (and this was expressly stated in a letter) I was a single mother, with no other means of support, and, therefore, unlikely to finish my thesis. (I did finish my thesis without their help, working two jobs, and caring for my children at the same time.)
I am old enough to have adored then Princess Elizabeth, not because she wore pretty dresses, but because she drove an ambulance on the field during WWII. I was never the girl who wanted to be a princess. I was the girl who wanted to drive an ambulance, to go down into the mines with Eleanor Roosevelt, my mother’s hero. If I could have the bully pulpit, I could change the world, I thought. Or, at least I could get Equal Rights under the American Constitution.
So, this week, Meghan Markle had the bully pulpit on Oprah Winfrey’s show, but her message, like Princess Diana’s, was one of victimization. Make no mistake, I’m sure that she had a hard road to travel inside the palace, and I sympathize with that. Royals, Presidents and First Ladies have a hard road to travel. They have privileges, and they have obligations as well and, I would guess, are aware of both of these facts unless they have been living under a rock. And, make no mistake, I’m aware of the racism that she had to face within the palace, in the tabloids, and among a good portion of the British public. Britain is not so different from America, where she grew up, and President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t have an easy time with American racism. Racism can’t have been unexpected to Meghan either, unless she expected a Disney Princess world. And, I find it hard to believe that she didn’t know that she had to curtsey before the Queen. Even Disney Princesses do that, albeit in beautiful dresses. If she didn’t know, shame on Harry for not telling her. But, what an opportunity she had to speak out for women and girls, especially for women and girls of color, to step outside of the gilded cage, visit Brixton, and talk to them. No, you can’t call an Uber to the Palace, but I’m sure that there would be a way for Rapunzel to escape for a few hours. Brixton folks also have trouble calling Ubers. I guess I never bought into Princesses being victims who have to be rescued by Princes. It’s time Sleeping Beauty bought an alarm clock.
And, in addition this week, there was Andrew. Now look, I’m a native New Yorker, born and bred, and I’ve known for decades that Andrew Cuomo is a bully and a thug. And, believe me, I don’t disbelieve the women who are accusing him of sexual harassment. Andrew Cuomo is an equal opportunity abuser. He abuses everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. He’s not disliked by co-workers and NY politicians for no reason. He’s not Hamlet on the Hudson, like his father, Mario. He’s more Richard III. But, he has guided NY through this pandemic with a steady and reassuring hand, even if he manipulated some facts. Perfect he’s not. So, I’m not asking that the harassment claims be overlooked. I’m just hoping that he and his party will hold out for a hearing, which is an American right in the face of accusations. I wish Al Franken had held out for a hearing, however it had turned out.
I guess I’m tired of Princesses and politicians just giving up, and not using their voices for good. And I think I may have alienated a lot of the people that I count on for support but, well, this is my voice.