“Yes, they’re joyfully in love. So why do I have a niggling worry about his engagement picture?” read a headline for the British tabloid on Friday.
The Daily Mail has used provocative and eyebrow-raising words before to get readers’ attention. “Niggling,” defined as a “persistent discomfort or concern,” is a shocking choice for several reasons. First, the word has a derogatory connotation when thinking about Markle’s racial background, many social media users said on Twitter.
Second, the matter of using the term is made worse because the word “niggling” closely resembles the N-word. The term also is close to the word “nigling,” another racist slur hurled by White supremacists to demean Black children, Raw Story reported.
Third, several public conversations about Markle have centered around racism since her engagement to Harry. Social media users had recently expressed outrage because Princess Michael of Kent donned a “racist” blackamoor brooch when she met Markle at the Queen’s annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace. Blackamoor, a style of artwork that began flourishing in the 18th century, made its way into sculptures, jewelry and textiles. However, the artwork has proven offensive and racist by oftentimes having shown black men and women as slaves.
Considering this information, it’s easy to see how the Daily Mail headline can come across as an example of veiled or dog-whistle racism. What should have been a moment of unadulterated celebration of Markle’s engagement photos is cut short and darkened by the “niggling worry” message, social media users also said. Markle’s win is undermined by the loss of a tactful and affirming headline, a message that rang loud and clear to several people on Twitter.