On Saturday, Meghan Markle spoke for 40 minutes with Althea Bernstein, the Black and Jewish victim of an alleged hate crime in Madison, Wisconsin.
Michael Johnson, president and CEO of a local Boys and Girls Club chapter, who is acting as Berstein’s spokesman, said that after hearing about the hate crime, Markle contacted him about reaching out to Bernstein.
Johnson told Channel 3000 that Markle and Bernstein bonded by speaking about faith and their biracial backgrounds. The former royal talked to Bernstein about “the importance of self care and allowing herself to heal,” and advised her to avoid reading negative comments on social media. Prince Harry spoke with Bernstein briefly as well.
“She’s struggling. It’s a challenge for her, it’s very, very emotional,” said Johnson of Bernstein. “I’ll tell you Meghan lifted her spirits.” He added that Markle offered to speak to Madison-area kids in a virtual town hall, which he hopes to arrange within the next few weeks.
Bernstein, an 18-year-old EMT studying to become a paramedic and firefighter, had stopped at a stoplight on June 24 when four white men sprayed her with lighter fluid through her car’s open window, shouted a racial slur and threw a lighter at her face. Bernstein sustained third-degree burns as a result of the attack.
In recent weeks the Sussexes, who relinquished their titles and moved to Los Angeles earlier this year, have broken with royal norms to engage directly with the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes. When Markle spoke about George Floyd’s death in a graduation speech to students at her former high school, she was the first member of the famously apolitical family to address the killing, or the ensuing nationwide protests, directly. Now, the couple are reportedly working with the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign, a group of advertisers pulling their content from Facebook in response to what they see as the platform’s tolerance of misinformation and hate speech.
“My faith is greater than any fear in my heart. If there is anything you all need from me. I am here,” Markle told Bernstein, a Facebook post from Johnson reported.
Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.