In an emotional speech to her former high school in Los Angeles, Meghan Markle addressed her sadness over racial divisions in the United States, saying she felt moved to speak out about the death of George Floyd.
Markle surprised Immaculate Heart High School’s graduating class with a moving message about race relations in the U.S., specifically regarding the May 25 death of Floyd, 46, who died after he was pinned down by a white police officer who held a knee on his neck for several minutes.
“I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing, because George Floyd’s life mattered,” she said on Wednesday.
The duchess, who is biracial, opened up about her memory of the riots in her hometown after police officers were acquitted in 1992 in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.
“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 and seeing the smoke billow out of buildings and seeing people run out of buildings, carrying bags and looting,” she said.
“And I remember seeing men in the back of a van holding guns and rifles, and I remember pulling up to the house and seeing the tree that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don’t go away.″
During the six-minute address, Markle also touched on a time when she was volunteering and her teacher told her: “Always remember to put other’s needs above your own fears.”
She continued by expressing her wish that the graduates were starting their young lives in a better world, but encouraged them to look at the positives coming out of the peaceful protesting.
“That has stuck with me throughout my entire life and I have thought about it more in the last week than ever before,” she said. “I am so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
“I know sometimes people say, ‘How many times do we need to rebuild?’″ she continued. “Well, you know what? We are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”
Markle and Prince Harry made the decision to step away from the Royal Family in March, moving their lives to California. Part of their move involved cutting ties with the British tabloid media that have picked apart Markle and her relationship since the couple were first publicly paired together in 2016.
In November 2016, Harry did something unprecedented by releasing a formal statement addressing the media’s sexist and racist treatment of his then-girlfriend Markle.
“The past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments,” the statement reads.
“Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”
— With files from the Associated Press.