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And Ain’t We Princess Material?

3 weeks ago

1071 words

Photo: Shout-out to the good and generous friends who fling open doors for you and bid you welcome. Our dear friend has a lovely home in Vermont that she let us borrow for the weekend, giving us the opportunity to be away and relax. The boys had a marvelous time playing with other peoples’ toys, The Husband was content to do nothing, and I embroidered for endless hours in front of this cozy, awesome wood stove. Warmth is the love of friends.

 

I woke up this morning to the news of Prince Harry’s engagement and I felt a giddiness that hasn’t left me all day. I’m not the biggest fan of the royals, and I usually roll my eyes when people fall all over themselves because Kate has a new outfit or whatever. I live on a Minute Man’s land, for goodness sake! But this… this is special and I have to take a moment to write it out for what it is. My giddiness isn’t for the fact that a royal person is getting married. The pomp and circumstance of another expensive wedding across the Atlantic is not what gives me butterflies. My giddiness comes on behalf of all little Black girls and the little Black girl who still lives in me.

Because Harry knew what we Black girls have always known: we’re princesses, too.

Not every little Black girl wants to be a princess. But those of us who do (or did), it was a hard flame to keep alive. Between Disney and their showcase of every type of princess but ours (until we got Tiana, who they barely committed to and who they continually push away or have made disappear entirely), the “princesses” of the celebrity world (God, remember when Paris Hilton was a thing?), and yes, the real life princesses of yore and today… “Princess” and Black were rarely, if ever, a combination we got to behold. Brandi in the live-action Cinderella television special back in 1997 was the closest I got to seeing a Black princess on television when I was growing up. Hilary Banks also counts, though you have to understand why you love her.

When Will and Kate got married, it was all anyone could talk about, and little girls on either side of the pond were all part of the action. I remember seeing news stories about “princess academies” and princess parties, and oh, isn’t it so lovely because Kate is just so gorgeous, etc etc… And while white moms were buying their daughters crowns or fascinators to wear in celebration of that big royal wedding, Black moms were telling their daughters that they were beautiful, engaging, wonderful, and amazing, too. You don’t need a prince or a crown to be treated like royalty.  Better to be a Queen than a princess anyway, we told each other with laughs. This is the truth, of course, but there is a bitterness too it. Of course we want to show some living proof to our daughters. Of course we want them to participate in the excitement, to have a princess of their own to look up to and celebrate.

And if Harry had chosen another white girl to bring to the royal ball, we would have done it again. We would have looked at each other, rolling our eyes, while the others twirled around and swooned, purchasing their daughters puffy dresses and crowned dolls to match. Pink everything, lace doilies… we would take our daughters to their princess-themed birthday parties and told them about out-stretched pinkies. You, too, Black daughter, are a princess. Don’t let all those other girls tell you anything different.

But not this time. This time, it’s us. We’re princesses this time. We’re the ones who are chosen. We’re going to the ball. The prince saw us this time.

I know that Meghan is bi-racial and it’s not totally fair to claim her only as Black and disregard her father and her father’s family. Lord knows I walk that line with my own two sons, constantly reminding myself that they aren’t only Black, just as they aren’t only white. They are both. Meghan is both and I honor that. But still, I honor that tanned skin and that textured hair. I honor the mother who raised her in the a world that doesn’t love girls of color. I honor her brownness set against his whiteness forever more in all the pictures they’ll ever take. I honor the journey of identity that she had to go through more than once, and will probably go through again as the world tries to take it apart and piece it back together in an image they find more palatable. Already they are trying to do that by showing images of her with her skin as light as possible, or not mentioning her race at all when speaking about her on TV. In pure New England fashion, the Boston Globe is trying to claim her by saying she descends from a founding Nantucket family and some big New Hampshire landowner. There are articles saying that she grew up in “Black Beverly Hills” and that she’s “Toronto royalty,” and they emphasize her private school education. They’ll do and say everything possible to separate her from us, to elevate her from us regular negroes. Royalty doesn’t choose regular little Black girls.

But Harry knows better.

Harry saw a woman of color and saw a princess.

Thank you, Harry.

Thanks for telling the world something the mamas and the grand mamas and the women and girls have been saying to each other forever and ever.

And just to be clear, we’ve known it for ourselves all along. We don’t need Harry for affirmation of a truth we have known forever.

I’m thanking Harry because he’s telling the rest of the world. When he does stuff, the world takes notice. So now the world will have to see it, too. We little Black girls? We’re the stuff princesses are made out of. We, too, are princess material.

And so, I am giddy, for my inner little Black girl, and the little Black girls who will be watching. Congratulations, Meghan and Harry! I suspect that you have no idea just how much this all means or just what you’re getting into. But still, sending you warm wishes from a little piece of minute man’s land in the middle of the revolutionary woods.

5 Replies to “And Ain’t We Princess Material?”

  1. When I finished reading the word “poignant” popped into my head. No other word seems to fit, and so even though it’s not a typical comment, I hope you take it as a heartfelt compliment.

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