"I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing. Because George Floyd's life mattered … and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know."
In a virtual speech to high school students this week, the Duchess of Sussex decried racism as protests continued around the US and the world, describing George Floyd's death in police custody and the response as "absolutely devastating".
It was a statement underpinned by personal experience, with Meghan sharing memories of the 1992 LA Riots, which were "also triggered by a senseless act of racism".
"I was 11 or 12 ... 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," she told the graduating class of her almer mater, Immaculate Heart High School.
"I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles. I remember pulling up the house and seeing the tree, that had always been there, completely charred. And those memories don't go away."
Meghan's video came more than a week after Floyd's death; in that time, some fans had begun questioning why she hadn't yet responded, pointing out she had previously spoken out against racism.
Starting her address, the Duchess admitted she "wasn't sure" what to say about the events of the past fortnight, and "wanted to say the right thing". It's a sentiment that's been voiced by many, but coming from a woman who's faced immense public scrutiny over the last three years, her reluctance was telling.
According to Vanity Fair, Meghan knew her message had to be "communicated appropriately" lest she be dissected by the media and members of the public.
"It wasn't easy, but she was determined to say something. These are her words, her sentiments—it's 100% her," a source tells reporter Katie Nicholl. Another agreed, saying the message reminded them of "the old Meghan".
Anyone vaguely familiar with Meghan Markle story will recognise the subtext of these remarks: the Duchess hasn't been able to express herself in an entirely natural way since marrying into the British royal family.
'I want things to be better'
Meghan has been outspoken about social justice issues for years, long before she became the Duchess of Sussex. As a biracial woman — her mother Doria Ragland is African American; her father Thomas Markle Sr is Caucasian — the issue of racism is particularly significant to her.
As her acting work nudged her into the public spotlight, Meghan often spoke of her mixed heritage and how she grappled with her identity. In 2012, the Suits star threw her support behind the 'I Won't Stand For...' campaign by charity Erase the Hate, reflecting on her personal experiences of racism.
"Some of the slurs that I've heard, or the really offensive jokes, or the names, it's just hit me in a really strong way," she admitted. "Beyond being personally affected by racism, just to see the landscape of what our country is like right now – certainly the world – I want things to be better."