Hey, my name is Ashley. I’m 18 years old and travelling around South East Asia at the minute on a gap year. I work in online marketing. I started my own business at a young age because there were so little job prospects.
Do you remember when you first came to understand that you are mixed race?
There’s not really a single moment I can recall. It was never explained to me at any point.
Did you parents talk to you about your mixed race identity growing up?
It was never explained to me as I mentioned above, but my living situation was a little different than most people. My dad was hardly around and my mum couldn’t look after us so we were put into care. I was only 3 years old at the time so cannot recall any specific conversations my mum had with me about race. We were then living with foster carers for the time being and they never mentioned race to me.
What positive memories do you have from your childhood about being mixed race?
I think the best thing about being mixed race is seeing two different cultures intertwine and getting to look at both with insight. This becomes especially significant when you have family gatherings and everyone makes a dish inspired by their individual culture, and you get to see how each compliments and contrasts each other in a positive light.
What are race relations like where you grew up? Did you experience any racism and/ or feelings of isolation?
For me it’s always very interesting when I’m asked about how I experience racism as a mixed guy from the UK. I live in a fairly multicultural area. Our media wants to ‘appear’ progressive. Racism manifests for me in very subtle ways, many of which I’m only beginning to pick up on.
I often felt my identity as a mixed person put me in an unusual box where I felt excluded from the black community at times but also excluded from the white community, even though I technically belong to both. There’s a lot of colorism, which leads to light skin privilege for some within the black community. This is born from racism outside of the black community. People would put me on a pedestal or say I’m more attractive because of my skin color.
More than anything it makes me sad that as people we are told that black isn’t beautiful consistently. Our natural beauty is seen as unattractive on us but perfectly fine as accessories on white people. I think this causes people to fetishize mixed people.
Because I haven’t faced a lot of direct racism, it was only as I started growing older that I picked up on the way society constantly ‘others’ me, excludes me and plain ignores me. It’s only recently black children are seeing role models on screen. John Boyega in Star Wars is a good example. It fills me with joy every time I see a picture of a young black kid watching the movie with a look of glee because they finally recognize someone like them on screen, being portrayed in a positive way. When I was a kid, which wasn’t even that long ago, role models like that were severely lacking.
Are there any other aspects of your identity which you feel affected your experiences as a mixed race person that you would like to talk about (such as social class, sexual orientation, gender etc).
It’s very interesting to me how race and gender especially intersect, yet what’s expected from a black man or woman from society is pretty much the same….stay quiet, don’t draw too much attention to yourself and don’t appear ‘angry’. As a black guy I’m expected to be angry and illiterate and it’s always a big shock to people when I’m neither of these things. People will then say I’m ‘eloquent’.
I’m constantly working against stereotypes rather than from my own individual merit. Racial stereotypes are often reflected in white supremacist media where we either have black men who are ‘thugs’, shown rapping and dealing drugs in movies, or we have ‘eloquent’ black men like Obama who are seen as exceptions. The problems start when you want to carve out your own identity, outside of these stereotypes.
Being gay and black also affects my life. Black men are often seen as ‘hyper masculine’ which doesn’t line up with being gay for a lot of people. I’ve experienced a lot of homophobia, especially from my parents, although I suspect this has more to do with older generations rather than race.
Do you have siblings and what was/ is your relationship like with them?
I have one sibling, a younger sister and our relationship is good. It’s intriguing to see how she is treated in comparison to me as she is ‘white passing’ even though we have the same parents. I remember one time, me and my mum were picking her up from her friend’s house. The parents took one look at my mum, who is black and then at my sister, and had the biggest look of shock of their faces, as though biracial people cannot come in all shades.
Do you feel more connected to a particular part of your racial identity? Has this changed over time?
I feel more ‘proudly black’ than in the past. I know that sounds weird but hear me out. Blackness is not something we’re told, at least by the media, to be proud of. Any black person in the media who is seen as positive is working against the ‘black stereotype’ constantly. Even look at how people like Martin Luther King are deliberately misconstrued by white media so as to be palatable, as no one likes an ‘angry black man’.
This can make a lot of mixed/black people disassociate themselves as much as possible from their ‘blackness’, *cough* Raven Symone *cough*. They want to be a seen as a ‘just a person’, not a ‘black person’, because of the benefits that brings in a white society. If ‘black/African American’ was simply a neutral label (at least socially in a white society), no one would want to distance themselves from it because it wouldn’t matter, but the fact that they do proves racism is still very much alive and that being black is not just an arbitrary label based on skin tone. It’s a set box.
Despite all of this I am very much BLACK AND PROUD. I’m black. I identify as black and prefer to be referred to as black not ‘mixed-race’. I’m proud to be black because I realise that in a society where black is bad, going against that idea is a powerful statement. Going against that means I open myself up to whatever stereotypes society throws to me but I tell society ‘fuck you!’
How do you feel being mixed race has affected your personality and life choices?
The only aspect of my personality I think is affected by my race is how I express anger. There’s a lot of self-censoring going on in regards to that. Anger is often a positive and required emotion in a lot of situations, for example when you are facing injustice anger can be used as a driving force for change. When you are black you walk the fine line between being seen as ‘passionate’ and being seen as just ‘another angry black person’.
Has race affected your dating preferences?
I feel I’m open to anyone, race doesn’t matter to me when I’m dating.
Are you a part of any mixed race networks that you can tell us about?
Not part of any!
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