Meghan Markle is the first member of the British royal family to speak out about the Black Lives Matter protests that started in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd and spread beyond America's borders, all the way to London, England.
In a video made for the graduating class at her former school, Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School, in Los Angeles, Markle tells the students: "I know you know that Black lives matter."
She continues: "For the past couple of weeks, I've been planning on saying a few words to you for your graduation and as we all have seen over the past few weeks, what is happening in our country and in our state and in our hometown of L.A. has been absolutely devastating."
She recalls how she felt as the child of a Black mother and white father, growing up in LA after the police beat Rodney King in 1992.
"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."
Markle explains that she was nervous about this speech because she wanted to say the right thing, something that wouldn't get picked apart. She explains: "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. Stephon Clark. His life mattered."
Meghan Markle: George Floyd's life mattered - YouTube www.youtube.com
She tells the students: "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've 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 opened minded as I know the teachings are at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that Black lives matters. So I'm already excited for what you're going to do in the world."
Markle has dealt with racism on an international stage for years. In 2016 Kensington Palace had to issue a statement against "the racial undertones of comment pieces" in the media and "racism of social media trolls and web article comments" after the world learned of the relationship between the biracial American actress and Prince Harry.
The year before, Markle wrote a piece for Elle detailing how white neighbors assumed her Black mother was her nanny when she was a baby, and how years later, her mother was the victim of racial slurs in Los Angeles.
"I was home in LA on a college break when my mom was called the 'N' word. We were leaving a concert and she wasn't pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver. My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: 'It's OK, Mommy.' I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo. Los Angeles had been plagued with the racially charged Rodney King and Reginald Denny cases just years before, when riots had flooded our streets, filling the sky with ash that flaked down like apocalyptic snow; I shared my mom's heartache, but I wanted us to be safe. We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly."
Markle's life story proves that the racist legacy of colonialism lives on in the United States and Britain.
"So in America you get this really virulent, openly hostile racism," Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, England told NBC News earlier this year. "In Britain, the logic of white supremacy, that black and brown life isn't worth as much as white life, is still with us very clearly today."
The students Markle spoke to could be the generation to finally escape the horrific legacy of white supremacy, but as Markle said to those kids, she knows that they know that Black Lives Matter. Youth are creating change on both sides of the ocean. Adults have to follow their lead and dismantle systemic racism.