This is one of those questions that always makes me wince a little inside.
First of all, one person can’t speak for an entire race of people, particularly one that includes such a diverse variety of mixes! Just like any other race, we don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush.
There are similar things that we all go through by belonging to more than one race (which is what The Mix-Up is for!) but we all have such different upbringings and experiences that it’s impossible to sum up how every mixed person feels about their ethnicity and how this has made an impact on who they are.
BUT it is important for our voices to be heard above the people that think that they can speak for us.
I recently watched a Buzzfeed video titled, ‘The Struggle of Being Mixed Race‘ and was astounded and sickened by some of the comments on Facebook. Right wing ‘news’ the Daily Wire and Breitbart branded the video ‘dumb’ with a poorly justified rant on how the video was ‘a perfect display of biologically obsessed, left wing, identity politics’.
Other people completely disregarded the struggles of mixed people by saying that they were just acting like victims as we allegedly don’t face any problems.The highest rated comment was of a white woman saying ‘Get over your selfs!!! No one gives a f*ck really!!!’.
It isn’t fair for other people who have no idea what it’s like to be in our shoes to act as if they do, and then to assume that being mixed puts us in a privileged position. In my experience of being White British and Black Caribbean, it has been an interesting one to say the least, especially growing up in a predominately white area in the South West of England.
As a child it all went over my head really, the only points that I really noticed that I was different was when other children asked me why I was brown and said that I looked like chocolate. How original. My brothers had it worse, they were likened to poo and had the n-word written on their school shirts.
But I never felt like I belonged in my hometown, and I still don’t because of being mixed. Numerous times I’ve been harassed in the street, told to ‘go back to my own country’ or to ‘go home’, and had the p-word shouted at me. Don’t get me wrong, I still get cravings for pasties, fudge and cream teas (you can take the girl out of Devon) but it’s hard to feel like you’re at home when you’re treated like a tourist or asked ‘but where are you really from?’.
At secondary school (high school), my white classmates found my thick curly hair a great source of amusement, calling me a ‘poodle’, playing with it, sticking things in it or asking to touch it. I hated my hair with a passion. All I wanted was to fit in with my friends, who agreed that it looked so much better straightened.
Yet when I was around black people I was called white and laughed at for being ‘posh’. I felt like I didn’t fully fit in anywhere and I yearned for someone that had been through the same experiences to talk to. I felt as if I had to tone down my blackness around white people to be accepted with them, or conform to at least one stereotype to be accepted around black people.
I resent the fact that some people (of any race) think that you have to listen to rap/hip-hop/dance hall, wear street wear, talk in slang, be able to dance, play basketball, be somewhat aggressive, (insert any other black stereotype that you can think of) to be able to ‘qualify’ as black. Needless to say, with my well-spoken accent, lack of the dancing gene, quiet nature and love for Girls Aloud, I didn’t quite make the cut.
Perpetuating and internalising the stereotypes prevents us from fully embracing who we are as individuals, we are already held back by other’s ideas of our identity – so why force it upon ourselves?
I know that I can’t speak for black people because, as a mixed woman I am aware that I haven’t gone through the same experiences and have certain privileges by also having a white heritage. I also know that this is a small group of people and by no means am I saying that everyone has this attitude.
It is hard not to conform to what society expects of you because you risk being ostracised by other people, especially when representations of people like you are telling you to act or look a certain way. I embraced being the sassy friend for a while because that was where I felt I belonged, as the ‘sassy black woman’. It wasn’t me at all and it made me stop in my tracks in a WTF am I doing moment when one white girl demanded: ‘be sassy for me!’
I’m not going to say that it has all been terrible, I take pride in both sides of my heritage and I would never denounce either. I know who I am, and other people’s ignorance will never take that away from me! It is very interesting to have the perspective of two races that are regarded as being the opposite of each other.
The two families that I’m from couldn’t be more different from each other. One a bunch of Northerners, Cornish, and Germans, the other an eclectic mix of Jamaicans, South Londoners and Americans – but that’s what I love about them. I just hope that one day mixed people won’t be pressured to ‘pick a side’, we are a whole person, not half of one and half of another!
If you would like to share your experiences of growing up being mixed please email The Mix-Up at: firstname.lastname@example.org