By Ellen McGirt
Updated: May 21, 2018 5:47 PM ET

The racist chatter had been so ugly, that her sweet prince had to issue an unusual statement, defending his then-girlfriend against the appalling attacks in traditional and social media. Prince Harry, one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, was dating a mixed-race actress, a commoner best known for her work on the telly. And people weren’t having it.

Yet, on Saturday, Meghan Markle, a light-skinned black American woman with a normal, if slightly messy family, joined an abnormal and supremely messy British one, in a star-studded wedding-event that went without a hitch.

Never mind the temporary shooing away of the homeless for a partly taxpayer-funded party, never mind the very idea of calcifying power through exclusive lineage, never mind retrograde class-conscious elites affronted by the thought of an upstart mongrel now playing the part of a Duchess in real life.

The British monarchy is clearly in transition. Perhaps looking to atone for its past treatment of other royal brides, perhaps looking to maintain power in a society that can’t seem to decide if it even needs royalty anymore, or perhaps to simply evolve into something…more.

The latter point is going to take a bit of work, as The Grio reminds us. For one thing, consider its long history as a slave-supporting colonial power, perhaps best measured by the trillions of dollars in unpaid labor, unjust economic enrichment, and pain and suffering it would owe in an alternate universe.

It’s just one element of history yet to be properly addressed. In fact, when Britain abolished slavery in 1833, they compensated some 46,000 slave owners the modern-day equivalent of US$23 billion, the largest bailout in British history until 2009.

But to her fans, Markle was royalty precisely because she walked into that complex history and addressed some fresh, and unapologetically black, facts of her own.

One was her elegant mother, Doria Ragland, who sat alone, a million miles from home, an unexpected embed in an utterly foreign culture. Wearing Oscar de la Renta, locs, and a nose ring, the single mother, yoga teacher, social worker, and descendant of slaves watched her only child join a monarchy already in progress, already progressing.

Another was the remarkable Kingdom Choir, led by Karen Gibson who sang a version of Stand By Me, an anthem of love and racial solidarity so powerful, that it surely moved Ben E. King from his perch in heaven.

But for many, the moment belonged to The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, and the first African American to lead the church.

Curry has a long history of preaching an inclusive faith, and modern times have not dimmed his fire.

To explain his controversial decision to join a 2017 amicus brief in support of Virginia high schooler Gavin Grimm’s suit to use the bathroom that corresponded to his gender identity, he shared his overarching philosophy. “The Episcopal Church welcomes all persons: young and old, liberal and conservative, high-church and low-church, cisgender and transgender children of God,” he wrote. “While we differ on some matters there is, as the old spiritual says, ‘plenty good room’ for us all.”

Curry made plenty of room on Saturday, for God, Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the healing power of love.

“I’m talking about some power, real power. Power to change the world. If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum south who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform,” he said, making all of Black Twitter sit up in unison. “They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity, it’s one that says there’s a balm in Gilead. A healing balm, something that can makes things right.”

As hard as it may be to believe that institutions can change, it’s worth contemplating the mysteries that make change possible. There’s plenty good room, after all, if we’re prepared to share it.

While I don’t expect any leaked footage of the Queen doing the wobble at the reception, she made room on Saturday, and she did it in front of the world.

The newly married Duke and Duchess made room for each other’s cultures. Whether they wanted to or not, the guests made room, along with everyone who watched the proceedings with surprised delight (me) or a justifiable suspicion (also me). Even if your reasons are still murky, making room always makes a mark.

With love at the center, we are equals; a healing balm to make things right, eventually.

But for now, a blueprint to survive these newly inclusive baby steps. “When love is the way… we actually treat each other,” Curry said, throwing an elbow on the pulpit with a smile, “well…like we’re actually family.”


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