Toxic relatives: Prince Harry and Meghan fled palace to escape ‘nasty’kin, Obama ignored Malik
The rift between Prince Harry’s wife Meghan and the British royal family spilled into the public once more amid claims of racial slurs and a toxic relationship with her in-laws that reportedly made her suicidal.
Toxic families are nothing new. Indeed, each family, from the high and mighty to the humblest, has a toxic relative and a victim or victims who become a target of endless spite and hate. In Meghan’s case, toxicity from royals, who are traditional by nature, was inevitable: She was foreign, black, an actress, divorcee, and older than her husband.
Malik and Barack, sons of the late Kogelo born Kenyan economist Barrack Obama are as different as night and day, much as both come from broken families and have United States college education.
One, a Harvard university trained lawyer, became a professor of constitutional law, author, senator, two term first black president of the most powerful nation on earth and a Nobel Prize Laureate who is credited for stopping a global economic recession as a rookie president. The other tried running for an elective post in a backwater county and scrapped through with a humiliating 2,792 votes, about 140,000 votes behind the eventual winner, his famous surname notwithstanding.
One has been married to a gorgeous woman with one of the most recognisable faces in the world for the past 29 years while the other is a polygamist who was in the news for marrying a 17-year-old girl. But if media interviews and social media posts are anything to go by, Malik not only has a strained relationship with his little brother but he is the toxic sibling. The resentment and antagonism Malik has against the younger Obama is unfathomable.
Malik has done everything — from selling letters from Barrack to a US news outlet to badmouthing him on Twitter and echoing Trump’s insults and falsehoods against his kid brother. To the point where Auma, his blood sister, has had to tell him off on social media when his tirades became unbearable. Time and again, Malik has breached the family philosophy of Mario Puzo’s unforgettable fictional mafia boss, Don Vito Corleone: “Never take sides with anyone against the family.”
Obama, naturally, is unfazed and has never responded to Malik’s rabid tirades. Like Obama, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle has also had her fair share of fights with close relatives. Her sister Samantha Markle, who is 19 years her senior, has always fought her in the media, many times calling Meghan a liar. She also authored a tell-it-all book detailing their tense relationship.
Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, who abandoned the family years ago, is now bankrupt and angry that the Duchess of Sussex isn’t supporting him financially. He has sold old photos to the press, charged for interviews where he bad mouthed his daughter to the press and even auctioned a letter Meghan wrote to him, to British tabloids. Needless to say, the Duchess of Sussex never invited her father and pushy sister, to the royal wedding.
Social scientist CT Muga says toxic people are profiled into two categories, the high achieving and the useless people. “In high achievers, their toxicity stems from the fact that despite their success, there is something missing in their life. There is something making them miserable and they lash out at the world. They are so dangerous because they also have the financial muscles to drive their evil agenda.
“The other category of useless people are usually very intelligent but their smartness has done nothing to make their lives better. So they are bitter at anyone who is above them socially or financially. They use their intelligence to devise devious ways of hurting people.”
Muga says there is class of people who may appear to be toxic but aren’t.
“These are people who just speak without thinking. Their mouths run faster than Usain Bolt. Those of the type you just call aside, list down everything they said or did, and ask them what the problem is. You will realise they actually didn’t know that whatever they said or did hurt someone,” says Muga, adding that toxic people are like cyanide, avoid them or you will die of stress.
Aside from siblings, the toxicity is worse when it comes from a parent, as Caroline Wangechi* knows too well.
“My mother never had time for us. My brother, sister and I were raised by my grandparents. My mother has the ability to make one remark about your appearance, or relationship, or financial status, which can bring tears to your eyes. Right now, her favourite is my younger sister because she has money.
“Last December, she sent me a stinging text, asking me to go pick my four- year-old ‘bastard son’ from her house because in two days, he had eaten food that can feed her and her four dogs in a month. I had even given her money for shopping because my son was to stay with her for 10 days as I was out of the country on assignment. I thought her grandson staying with her would mend our relationship but it seems not.”
Wangechi says her mother sent her a text at around 5pm in the evening, promising her that if the boy isn’t picked, he will sleep outside with the dogs. “I was in Egypt, so I had to organise and get a relative to pick the boy before the curfew hours because knowing my mum, she would have let the boy sleep in the kennel,” she says.
Wangechi says she has no intention of ever speaking to her mother again.
“I have had a strained relationship with her since childhood. I have never spent more than a day with her. I have tried to bend over backwards to accommodate her but she wants nothing to do with me, unless she is asking me for money. Before I took my son to her, I used to call her every week, and I met her twice in 2020. So in December, I asked if she would love to stay with her grandson for a few days and she seemed delighted. After two days, she called my son a bastard, and didn’t want him in her house.”
She says when she got her son four years ago, and the man denied responsibility, her own mother never came to see her in hospital after delivery, but sent her a text saying, ‘unaona mahali umalaya imekufikisha? Endelea kuzaa na mabwana za watu.”
She was shocked her mother could say such a thing considering she and the rest of her siblings were borne of different men whom they have never met.
Psychologist Faith Atsango, who practices in the city, says it’s important to note that people rarely have control of what a toxic family member can say or do to them, but they have the control on how it will make them feel. “You can form an emotional boundary, since you know the relative brings nothing but negative vibes. If you can afford it, you can also cut links totally, free yourself from them and live your life as you wish.
She says it’s important to free yourself from emotional blackmail that comes with cutting a toxic family member off.
“Consider your siblings, parents or children. If someone is a toxic brother to you, then to people around you, he will be a toxic uncle, a toxic grandfather, a toxic business partner, a toxic son in law or brother in law. So no one around you is safe with the toxic person in your life. Cut them off. They are the ones with the problem, not you, and you need to realise you can’t change them, they are the ones to work on themselves and change.
HR practitioner, Vincent Abwao says dealing with toxic relatives is much harder because of blood relations.
“At work, we always advise people to choose their battles. You don’t have to get into the ring whenever a battle cry calls,” he notes.