A SALUTE TO DORIA RAGLAND

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Doria Ragland with her daughter Meghan Markel.

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god….I could be the grandmum of the future King of England. I, a lowly, blue-collar, overeducated and undervalued woman from North Portland Ave. in the Fort Greene Projects of Downtown Brooklyn, could have spawned a daughter who would marry a prince who is only five to seven steps away from inheriting the throne, and if he and Meghan should have a child, he would be king….simple Fantasy 101. Why not? Indulge me, please.

When I saw that high school picture of Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, with the Angela Davis ‘fro, I knew we were one and the same; intelligent black women whose mission is to make the next generation better, more intelligent, more evolved than ours. We sacrificed everything for our children.

We are all Meghan’s mother. We, who worked so hard to bring up our little girls to be princesses. Okay, officially, she will be a duchess, that’s the same thing to those of us who live in our imaginations. We worked three jobs to send our kids to private schools, gave them ballet classes, braces, helped them with their homework and hired a tutor for their S.A.T.’s.

We sacrificed everything for our children so that they would grow up perfect and superior. Not “just as good as”.

Doria went through the same stages as many of us. We started with the Angela Davis afro and are now sporting braids in as many colors as we choose. We know that Yoga is the way and we are voracious readers. We can quote Malcolm Gladwell at every cocktail party we attend.

We acted in defiance of the “oh-so-charming” caricature of the contemporary Black woman who is sassy and tough as portrayed so many times on “Saturday Night Live”. We coped with the self-loathing, albeit funny, comedies of “Sanford and Son”, “In Living Color”, etc.

They were funny, Lord knows they were funny, but were these women the image we wanted for our girls? How many films centered on intelligent Black women verses “Booty Call” or “Precious”?

Let’s give a great big bravo to Meghan for not going “Ghetto Chic” and trying to pretend that all Black women are loud and churlish. After all, as an actress, that is where the money is. Most of the parts written for women of color, especially those on television (before Shonda Rhimes cast a spell on ABC and blessed us all with intelligent female roles), are for those with a big heart and tiny IQ, certainly those with a wonton sense of etiquette who are forced to drop their pants for a laugh, and a canned laugh at that.

A recent photograph of her mother Doria, posted by
Meghan.

There have been other fairy tale stories like Grace Kelly and even Jamie Lee Curtis whose husband, Christopher Guest, turned out to be royalty. Black royalty is a tad more scarce, however.

Meghan will join a handful of other Black women who have chosen to join with royalty. Of that cadre of women only Countess Lei Von Habsburg from South Carolina and Princess Ariana Austin from Washington, D.C are fellow Americans.

When I was a little girl there was a 1949 movie called “Pinky”. It was about a biracial girl with a Black mother whose daughter looked white. Back then, we called her “light-skinned with good hair”. It was a remake of an older 1934 movie called “Imitation of Life”. In that movie, Fredi Washington, who was Black, played Peola, the daughter and Louise Beavers, who was also Black, played the mother. In it, Peola, the protagonist, moans, “I wish I were white” because of her untenable situation.

In “Pinky”, the mother was played by Ethel Waters and the girl was Jeanne Crane, who was white, or at least they said she was. Pinky, a nurse, falls in love with a doctor who does not know she is Black. The whole picture is about covering up being Black.

My mother stammered and welled up in tears as she tried to explain to me why it was bad to be Black. I never understood it, but I knew it was bad for my people and worse yet, bad for me.

Now, this miracle has happened, a “light-skinned girl with good hair” is not rejecting her doting mother, rejoices in being Black and the prince knows she is Black and loves her even more because of it; moreover, he wants the world to know it.

It is a testament to the racism of America that the very thought of this crumb of equality makes me want to cry; weeping tears of happiness and completeness. Finally, it is good to be Black!

As an American, I always pretended that I didn’t give a fig about royalty and privilege. I didn’t give a fig because I knew that it was a world that I would never be a part of. A world filled with elitism, raping, robbing, pillaging and destroying. After all, the English were responsible for many of the bad things in this world…need I mention the Middle East? Or the famous Churchill line about Gandhi being a half-naked fakir? Yet, they have done a lot of good things as well. Let us not forget, they freed their slaves 20 years before we freed ours, which is a whole generation of freedom which British Blacks received before American blacks.

Now that I could be the pretend mother of a princess, a real, honest-to-goodness princess, I am a lot more lenient about the negative side of “the Mother Country”. Harry is only five or seven steps away from being king. Any number of things could happen enabling Meghan to spawn the Black King of England—”The Quadroon King”. I go to sleep every night with that dream.

Oh, what a phony I was. This royalty thing is a magnet which attracts us commoners like Ulysses and the siren’s song.

Both Prince Harry and Prince William are trying their darndest to act like “regular guys”. They know the charms of the common folk. They are aware of the traps of nobility; and that is why we love them all the more.

So, what does this union mean for the world? It means there is hope. It means that Harry was intelligent enough to follow his heart as well as his head. It means that Meghan is brave enough to embroil herself in a family that lives on the front pages of tabloids every day. She knows that every word she says will be recorded and judged. It means that neither one of them can have a tiff in public or a fight at home. The pain of keeping up the smile must be exhausting. Yet, it is a small price to pay for the greater good they are doing.

We mothers who have sacrificed so much for our children are finally getting our due, thank you Doria, you are truly appreciated. On behalf of all the undervalued women from the Fort Greene Housing Projects, allow me to thank you for giving us enough material to dream about for a lifetime.