Sun. Oct 24th, 2021


Oprah Winfrey’s Sunday primetime interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex following their step back from royal duties amassed over 17 million viewers on the night, and is still being dissected and debated by US media, and in households across the country, 48 hours after it first aired.

The conversation is dominated by Meghan and Harry’s allegations of racism against the royal family, and – unlike in the UK, where the media pushback against those claims has been fierce in some quarters – has largely praised the pair for speaking out.

CNN’s Don Lemon said of the interview: “Racism is racism. Doesn’t matter whether you live in a shack or a palace.

“Meghan and Harry’s story is a story of how hard it can be to change institutions, to change societies and cultures – how hard it is to talk about race, sometimes.”

Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning and editor-at-Large for O, The Oprah Magazine, noted Meghan’s bravery.

“No 1, you could tell Oprah was certainly caught off guard when [Meghan] talked about having suicidal thoughts,” King said. “I got very choked up just listening to her explain how difficult it is to seek help and then to be told, ‘No, no, no, there’s nothing we can do.’ I thought it was very brave of her to share that.”

The pair, who have settled in California, were widely seen as wanting to use the interview as a way to launch their new public lives in the US, and they appear to have been embraced by many watching.

In the New York Times, the critic Salamishah Tillet said the interview “did not disappoint” and particularly praised Harry for becoming “emboldened to take on the British monarchy into which he was born, and the white privilege that holds it up and has benefited him his entire life”.

Serena Williams, a close friend of Meghan’s, tweeted: “Meghan Markle, my selfless friend, lives her life – and leads by example – with empathy and compassion. She teaches me everyday what it means to be truly noble. Her words illustrate the pain and cruelty she’s experienced.”

Nina Parker, host of the talkshow Nightly Pop, also voiced support in a tweet saying: “You know why Black women believe Meghan? Because we know what micro aggressions look like. And how they slowly drive you insane.”

The Sussexes’ story has offered others room to share their own online. But some questioned how much sympathy the pair should expect, given their wealth and status.

Many commentators across the globe said they found it hard to pity the couple, but Lemon defended the pair.

“What does money have to do with – money takes away racism, it makes it not a thing?” Lemon said. “Come on, y’all. All of you. When you’re living in privilege? You don’t see racism, even when it’s happening right before your eyes.”

Oprah Winfrey in 2018.
Oprah Winfrey in 2018. Photograph: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Winfrey’s careful and thorough approach to controversial topics of mental health and racism has been widely praised. Herman Saksono, a researcher for the Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society who focuses on tech and equity and analyzed the interview transcript, said he had wanted to study how interviewers like Winfrey handled difficult issues.

“When discussing topics of racism and mental health, it’s really difficult to balance [the story]. I really liked how she went back to clarify things that Harry and Meghan said – you get more details but also see the bigger picture. It made for a more compelling interview because of these two factors,” he said.

“Racism causes other problems,” Saksono said, and in this interview, the experiences of many that may normally seem mundane or brushed under the rug were given some legitimacy. “No matter if you’re a common worker or a royal, we all deal with these issues of racism and mental health. This is very real.”

Robert Santiago, 25, a writer in Brooklyn, praised Winfrey for giving the pair a platform to speak.

“There was a palpable confidence present, which makes sense given how much experience [Winfrey] has talking with people on camera,” Santiago said. “But I think the best thing is that she asked important questions designed for information without being too pushy.

“A lot of interviewers, even big names, ask questions designed to get the response they want instead of just the information from the subject. When they don’t get the desired answer, they try to force it.”

  • In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or emailjo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found atwww.befrienders.org.

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