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The Duchess of Sussex has told students at her former high school “George Floyd’s life mattered” as she spoke to them at their graduation.
Meghan Markle, 38, shared her “absolute devastation” over the racial divides in the US and told the graduating class: “I’m so sorry you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
Meghan made her address to leavers at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles via video link.
She said: “What is happening in our country and in our state and in our home town of LA has been absolutely devastating.
“I wasn’t sure what I could say to you.
“I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn’t or it would get picked apart and I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing, because George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know.”
Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes. All four officers present during his arrest have now been charged and fired.
The former Suits actor, who is the first mixed race person to marry into the British Royal Family, has been outspoken on racism through her life.
She also told students of her own experiences living in LA during the 1992 race riots, which happened after police officers were seen beating 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.
“I remember seeing men in the back of a van just holding guns and rifles.
“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.
“I can’t imagine that at 17 or 18 … that you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience,” she said.
She urged them to understand the situation as “a history lesson, not as your reality”.
Meghan added: “Now you get to be part of rebuilding … we are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it’s rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we.”
A spokesman for the Sussexes has said Meghan planned to say congratulations, but was compelled to address “what’s happening in this country right now around the killing of George Floyd – as well as what’s been happening over many, many years and many, many generations to countless other black Americans”.
Meghan and her husband Prince Harry moved to her hometown of LA at the end of March.
Like the rest of the state of California, they have been in lockdown due to coronavirus and have been spotted in various different video calls with charities.
They have celebrated their second wedding anniversary and their son’s first birthday in lockdown.
The duke and duchess plan to launch a new non-profit organisation, called Archewell, which will replace the work they did through the now defunct Sussex Royal, but with no connection to the Queen.