Harry, Meghan, and Skin Color

Anyone who knows me really, really well, knows I’ve had a fascination with the British Royal family since childhood. I trace this back to being roused from a deep sleep at 5 in the morning on July 29, 1981. There was a pot of tea and my mother had prepared a cake. My birthday was July 10, so I was completely confused about this early morning celebration.

Turns out, six-year-old me was one of a billion around the world who tuned in to watch what was dubbed the “wedding of the century.” And from then till now, not a single tabloid or entertainment magazine has printed an issue without some news or scandal of the British royals. So yeah, I also woke up at 4 a.m. EST to watch William marry Kate, and again in 2018 to watch Harry marry Meghan. Over the years I have read a lot and watched too many documentaries. Suffice it to say I know a lot about the British Royal Family—probably more than you would imagine a person who isn’t connected with them, would.

Admittedly these days, I’m not as into the exploits of a family that has proven—especially since the Diana years—to be woefully behind the times, lacking in transparency, and whose sole purpose for existence in the 21st century seems to be using their celebrity to further a few worthy causes. Because in case you were not aware, Queen Elizabeth II does not participate in the day-to-day running of her nation. That is left to the Prime Minister, who is currently Boris Johnson.

I wasn’t planning on watching the Oprah interview last Sunday but decided to at the last minute. And some of the things that were revealed were surprising, while others were not. I’m not going to recap the entire discussion but will focus on the one revelation that made Oprah utter a well-articulated, incredulously gasped, “What?!”

I’m speaking of the moment when Meghan, Duchess of Sussex backed up by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, revealed that while pregnant, there were PROMINENT members of the royal family expressing concern over the depth of color little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor would come out of the womb with.

To the rest of the world, especially in 2021, the news that someone would actually care about this and possibly use this as reason enough for the child, who is the offspring of a prince, to 1. Not receive a hereditary title; 2. Not receive security in a wackadoo world where racists have sadly been allowed to spout off their nonsense and act violently in the name of their idiotic viewpoints; is cause for astonishment.

But here’s where my brown girl experience comes in handy. You see friends, Indian people (and I’m sure those of many other cultural groups) have a real and foolish issue with skin color. Was the fact that a senior member of a white family taking issue with the color of the skin of a child who would be born 75% white and 25% black, racist? Absolutely. It also shows that some members of the Brit royals missed the Biology lesson on basic genetics (Punnet squares, anyone?).

But that same racism also exists within singular ethnic groups, albeit it then becomes referred to as colorism. Many Indian families place among their prerequisites for a suitable spouse, skin color. And the whiter the better. Ideally, if people outside the Indian diaspora have to wonder if a person is truly Indian and has green or blue eyes, you have hit the matrimonial jackpot. If said person is a doctor or engineer, or even a dope but a wealthy dope, you have landed yourself a winner!

I am a brown Indian woman. There is no doubt I’m Indian when you look at me (though I do get the occasional “are you Ethiopian?” question). So, when I was engaged to my Iranian husband, and people who care about this crap viewed his white skin and amber eyes, they suddenly looked at me like I had a solid gold Oscar award attached to my arm. But I digress.

My point is this—whoever asked that asinine question among the Brit royals shouldn’t be allowed to rule upon the death of the Queen, because they have proven to be woefully foolish and unkind. Just in case you were wondering, there are three main suspects now because Harry did clarify that the Queen and her husband, Prince Phillip were not the offenders. That leaves “spineless plant talker” Charles, Prince of Wales; Camilla “rottweiler home wrecker” Duchess of Cornwall, and William “cheated on Kate and was protected and is proving to be a top-rated dork,” Duke of Cambridge. I’m still rooting for you Kate as the one trapped voice of reason in this motley crew of clueless folks. But if I find out it was you… Anyways.

The question of the color of skin is racist, idiotic, and reeks of white supremacy. In case the British royals weren’t aware, that crap will no longer be tolerated as it once was—by people of color and white people alike.

So, where does this Indian obsession with skin color come from? As you might know, India was considered a colonial jewel of the British Empire for a time. In the several hundred years that Brits occupied the subcontinent, and both violated and stole from its people and resources; colorism is a form of supremacy and control that was propagated. And though I can’t in truth report on Indian attitudes toward color before that time, it is no lie that Euro-centric attitudes toward beauty and acceptability have been imbibed by too many Indian people the world over. And you know what? It’s BS. And I’m not saying that because I sport the tone of a Cadbury Milk bar.

So, let’s talk honestly about color. Regardless of your culture, were you ever praised or castigated for your skin color or depth of brownness? What are you doing now to resist that lunacy?

Because that’s where we are in 2021—resist that lunacy.

Women of Infinite Worth: All of Us

I’m a day late to International Women’s Day. Because like many women around the world, the day just got away from me. But since this month celebrates women and our accomplishments, I can still post today without shame.

Do you have a running list of people you admire? What about women you admire? I fall into the latter grouping. While there are people from all walks of life whom I admire, I am especially drawn to women to have accomplished things despite great odds, who are voices of wisdom in tough times, women whose resilience is a constant inspiration, women whose hearts flow with the love of God, young women who have not let age or circumstance stop them from going after the things they are passionate about. The list goes on.

As a woman, finding other women to look up to, to draw motivation and inspiration from is important to me personally. We all are drawn to people whose lives resonate with our own. And female role models are important to our sense of self. When we get down about ourselves (something many women struggle with), having someone to look to for an example is crucial.

Wives, mothers, creators, innovators, healers, educators, rabble-rousers—women of infinite worth, all of them.

This is my running list, not listed in rank or importance.


Michelle Obama

Dr. Jill Biden

Laura Bush

Gloria Steinem

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Judy Blume

Kamala Harris

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Smart

Greta Thunberg

Florence Pragasam

Diane Evans Carlson and all Combat Nurses—especially Vietnam War era.

Amanda Gorman

Maya Angelou

Mia Karimabadi

Aretha Franklin

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Female Whistleblowers and Silence Breakers Everywhere

Naomi Osaka

Angela Merkel

Mary, the Mother of Christ

These are just a few. Who are yours?

Cherokee Queens

I admit to not knowing much about the Cherokee culture other than what I learned for a paper I wrote on Sequoia in the 6th grade. And I’m fully ready to admit that I was turned on to this topic by something I saw in Outlander.

If you are a fan of the series, you’ll know Jamie and Claire became pioneer settlers in the backcountry of North Carolina, which in the 18th century was still populated by the members of the Cherokee nation. Their first encounters with the Cherokee people were naturally not friendly given that these two colonial people decided to put down roots on Cherokee land without asking. Relations improved because Jamie and Claire were not half-witted colonial white supremacists, though most of their neighbors were. But on the road to friendship, they were attacked by a rogue Cherokee man dressed as a bear who had been kicked out from their society.

The reason this guy was wandering the woods all by himself in bear claws, was because he abused his woman. And in the Cherokee nation of that time, violence against women had a zero-tolerance policy. Not only was this guy sent out from the village, but his people also stripped him of the right to even be called Cherokee. For a communal culture and society, this is as close as one comes to killing a person without actually ending their natural life.

But that intrigued me, so I started doing a little research on the role of women in the Cherokee nation, and what I discovered was straight-up women’s empowerment long before anyone thought to coin that term.

For example, women shared equal status with men. When White colonial settlers first tried to work out treaties with the Cherokee, the tribespeople asked where their women were. According to this 2018 article from indiancountrytoday.com*, such a question stumped the white man, and it took them some time to come back with a dumb answer.

“In February of 1757, the great Cherokee leader Attakullakulla came to South Carolina to negotiate trade agreements with the governor and was shocked to find that no white women were present. “Since the white man as well as the red was born of woman, did not the white man admit women to their council?” Attakullakulla asked the governor. Carolyn Johnston, professor at Eckerd College and author of Cherokee Women in Crisis: Trail of Tears, Civil War, and Allotment, 1838-1907, says in her book that the governor was so taken aback by the question that he took two or three days to come up with this milquetoast response: “’ The white men do place confidence in their women and share their councils with them when they know their hearts are good.’”

Why does that answer not shock me?

Decisions were simply not made without the counsel and approval of women. Cherokee culture is also rooted in a matrilineal construct. The brother of one’s mother, for example, would be of more value than a father, and certainly male members of the father’s side. Women owned the homes that most of the extended family lived in, and daughters could expect to inherit that property.

Women certainly had roles that were in line with traditional roles of women nearly everywhere—home care, cooking, cleaning, birthing, and childcare, etc. But instead of these roles simply being the place where females belonged for their perceived lack of physical strength or something equally lame, women were highly respected for them.

Body positivity and sexual liberation were hallmarks of the Cherokee attitude relationships. There was no shame in one’s body or in sexual desire and people were free to love whom they loved. Consent and agency were highly respected values that both men and women upheld. Adultery and divorce were also not considered devastating crimes when they occurred. 

Of course, the freedom of body, desire, and thought was positively evil in the eyes of White colonialists and Christian missionaries. When in fact, where the Cherokee were highly evolved in those matters, their new colonial neighbors were looked down on for being tightly wound-up prudes. 

Sadly, as more and more white people took over native-held lands, survival became the ultimate concern for most indigenous peoples of the United States. And for the Cherokee, this meant adopting many of the white ways, especially when entangled with Christianity. Children were often made to attend mission boarding schools where their culture was forced out of them. And in time, women in the Cherokee nation lost the power and standing they had peacefully held for generations, thus were the ways of white culture.

The next time you think about the Indigenous cultures of the first people of the United States, remember their women—powerhouses, all of them. These women are the queens whose example we must look to as we ladies today are still fighting for the same things Cherokee women naturally held until the birth of America took them as collateral damage.

What matriarchal cultures are you familiar with? Do you come from any of them? 


A Motherhood Tale

For Women’s History Month, I’m devoting all my posts to things for women, about women, and spotlighting women. As motherhood is a unique experience commonly associated with womanhood and one that certainly defines a lot of things for anyone identifying as female, I thought I’d start here.

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I was never one of those people that considered being childless by choice—except for that one phase in college when I was pretty sure I should be a nun, and I’m not Catholic. I’d always seen my life as pretty standard—married, children, job. In high school, (you know because 30 seems elderly when you are 16) I had this idea that I should marry at 20 and have a baby by 23 so I could be a young and cool mom. Funny how things turn out.

When I did not have a serious boyfriend to accomplish lofty goals with by age 21, the aforementioned plan was laid aside to die. Many would argue that marrying young and committing to that life is a lot to ask of a young woman who could be doing so many other things, but that was really what I wanted. I’ve never been one to want a field of boyfriends; my easily wounded (and slow to heal) heart just wanted it’s one person—my lobster (thank you Phoebe Buffay).

But life has a funny way of taking our best laid plans and turning them upside down while God chuckles on the side. So short story—met husband at 21. Engaged at 22. Married at 23. Mother at 24. Second child at 27. Mortgage at 28. The end.  Well clearly not the end, but as you can see, things went some kind of way and yet I wouldn’t change a thing, even if my 20s were entirely spent in a state of being overwhelmed and shell shocked.

I remember watching this show about babies and giving birth on TLC (before its content got all gypsy weddings, sister wives, and Duggars). It was about six weeks after our late November wedding; I was new to the area and sending out resumés. Instead of watching the show and wondering “if,” the idea was framed with a solid “when.” I thought we had a good three to four years before such things, though I remember kind of wishing our time was now. Because all that stuff was high theoretical that point in time.

Well….by the middle of March I was feeling like I was going die because something was definitely off. I was convinced there was no way I could be pregnant (hey kids—birth control is most effective when used 100% of the time. Ok? 100%), so surely, I had contracted something that was slowly killing me from the inside. I’d never skipped my period. Ever. But you know, I still didn’t believe pregnancy was a possibility (denial, denial).

My friend was about four months along in her own pregnancy and when I told her things had gone wonky in my world, she gave me a leftover unused prego test. I took it one fateful morning, and after the recommended time needed for the results to reveal themselves, I looked. I believe I was looking for a + sign. But I could only make out what I was certain was a – sign. So, I left the test in the bathroom and went about my business certain that maybe newlywedhood had just thrown me off temporarily. Ha ha ha.

When I went to throw away the test, I looked and saw a faint + sign. But somehow in my mind that registered as, “well it’s been sitting here a while, so the pee has seeped in and changed the sign to positive.” But still, I wasn’t pregnant. (Oh, sheesh girl, what I would tell that silly bride today).

Another month rolls by and another test is taken, which actually is negative again. Meanwhile I start a new job that I absolutely loathe, start feeling worse and worse (crying on the metro, dry heaving from the smells of the people on the metro). Finally, I decide to see an OB/GYN, because why not?

I cried in the waiting room while they got my paperwork together. When I sat down, my giddy husband asked what the doctor said, and when the words “She says I’m most likely pregnant,” tumbled out, so did the tears—from terror. He on the other hand was very pleased—with himself and the world.

We weren’t ready for this. Bleh apartment in a sketchy neighborhood, a job I hated and wanted to get out of but now felt trapped in, still adjusting to life in a new place I wasn’t sold on yet; and now we were going to be parents.

I was nearly 11 weeks along when I got my first ultrasound. All of the sudden the screen lit up with this image of a bouncy alien baby with E.T. eyes and a giant noggin. She was hyper—using my uterus as a trampoline and waving arm “nubbins” to say hello. The E.T. eyes were looking right at us as if to say, “Yeah, I’m real. See you soon suckas!”

Nausea, migraines, a gestational diabetes scare (I like that super sweet orange soda they give to be honest), horrific stretch marks, a whole lot of swelling, and husband that was so weirdly confident in our parenting abilities he said we didn’t need the birthing classes.

So, on November 6, 1999, I aced the birthing test without studying. But with drugs. And the drugs were good.

I wish I could say motherhood washed over me and made me whole the moment my child took leave of my body. The love was there. The pride that we made this pretty little thing was there. The sense of doing everything that needed to be done to care for her was there. I would feed, change, bathe, sleep, repeat.

But the ensuing 21 years of raising said child and the brother that followed have exposed my weaknesses. Anxiety and worry have always won out over reveling in the present. Motherhood opens you up and leaves you raw and exposed, and yet you don’t always know. And yes, the life of a child goes by very, very fast.

But motherhood—as it is brought to you through your own womb or that of someone else—is otherworldly. You look back at a grown child and think, “my word, this child has survived under my care.” And that’s where you come face to face with the grace of God. This job of bringing a life to the world through your own. This is the unexpected journey of twists and turns, boring stretches of the mundane; anger and sadness, hollowness and fullness and eventually the wistfulness that settles in when they finally walk toward a dorm building and so very, very far away from you.

It is all of it then. All of it now. All of what is still yet to come.

This post and exclusive content is also available on my podcast The WiloPod on Spotify.