Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Nicola Codner. I am 35 years old and I live in Leeds, Yorkshire in the UK. I have recently qualified as a psychotherapist and counsel teenagers. I’m a blogger on social justice issues and run a feminist community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/amixedracefeministspeaks). I also work in administration for the NHS in a single point of access for children’s mental health referrals.
How do you identify?
I use different terms. I use the terms mixed race, biracial, multiracial and dual heritage interchangeably, but mostly I describe myself as mixed race because this is the most common term we use in the UK for people like me. I may identify as black depending on the context. As an example, if I was standing up against the oppression of black people I may choose to describe myself as black, if I felt this would be of some benefit in the situation. I may also identify as black to show explicitly that I am proud of that part of my identity. Sometimes I also identify as English, Jamaican and Nigerian, as the term ‘mixed race’ can feel a bit meaningless at times because it is so ambiguous.
Why do you identify as you do?
I like to use the terms which acknowledge that I am more than one race because I feel it’s important for me to acknowledge all sides of my identity, and I feel connected to other people of similar backgrounds by using such terms.
How often do you think race impacts your life?
My racial identity plays a big role in my day to day life. This is part of the reason I like to blog on social issues. I am also willing to share information about my racial identity in my general day to day life if the topic comes up, and it helps to educate others around racial issues.
I am aware of the projections I receive from others based on race and I am very aware of how race is represented in the media and society in general.
What assumptions do others make about you based on your racial identity?
I tend to have a lot of stereotypes thrown at me about being mixed race and I also receive stereotypes around black identity too. I think the stereotyping has always been frustrating and even harmful in the past, but it’s easier to manage now I’m older and I have a stronger sense of self. Now when someone projects something at me to do with race, it helps me to understand how they see race rather than taking it on as any kind of reflection of myself.
Common misperceptions tend to revolve around beliefs that I will only be interested in stereotypically black stuff, like soul music as an example. I also notice I get the ‘sassy’ stereotype a lot because I am outspoken. I get the stereotypes of being ‘stuck up’ and ‘superior’ as well because I am mixed race.
How do you honour your multiracial heritage?
I join online groups for mixed race people, read about other mixed race people’s lives, meet with mixed race friends, write on mixed race issues, and try to enjoy and learn about each individual culture that makes up my identity. In the future I’m keen to go to Jamaica and Africa to learn more about my identity.
Do you consider yourself to be part of a multiracial community?
Yes. At the moment this is mainly online but I would like to become part of a face to face mixed race community in the future. I don’t think this is very easy to do in the UK though. There aren’t any mixed race community groups local to me. At least not that I am aware of.
The multiracial online connections I have, help me to trust in myself and my perception of my experiences. I think when you are mixed race you don’t get a lot of external validation because most of the people around you are usually mono-racial, and they can really struggle to see your point of view and/ or understand the issues you face. It’s really important for me to be able to speak to other mixed race people who are having similar experiences. This makes me feel whole and strong.
What impact do you think that multiracial people can have in discussions on race?
I feel personally that being mixed race helps me to see multiple perspectives and weigh up different arguments. I notice these traits in other mixed race people and feel such traits can be helpful when discussing racial issues and navigating race relations.
I think mixed race people should be much more involved in conversations about race. It’s upsetting that we are frequently excluded from such conversations. Mixed race people live at the ‘intersections’ of race and I think sometimes this can expose us to more information on racial issues than other groups, or at the very least more unique types of information.
Being mixed race helps me to understand how rigid ideas around race can be harmful for people in ethnic minorities, whether they are mixed race or mono-racial. It would be great if perspectives from mixed race people can help to break down society’s stereotypes about different racial groups and remove binary thinking when it comes to race.
Ultimately all people who experience racism should have their perspectives acknowledged and valued in conversations about race relations, otherwise how can race relations genuinely improve?
How can we make the future better for multiracial people?
I’d like multiracial people to receive more social recognition beyond the superficial level of appearance, to be more reflected in social policy, to have our own groups and organisations for a greater sense of community, and to enhance our social capital. I’d personally love to start a mixed race print magazine.
We need more outlets for our voices. I want multiracial people to be heard. I think we all need to keep looking for ways to share our voices and for opportunities to make links between ourselves.
What is important to you in the work that you do?
Equality and justice for all people.