Basque | Ghanaian/Ivorian/French/Guadeloupean/Indian
I identify as mixed-race, atheist and straight. Both my parents were born in France, but my Mother is of French heritage (Basque country to be specific as they don’t always consider themselves French) and my Father comes from a family that has been mixing for generations. His Father was Ghanaian/Ivorian and his Mother mixed French, Guadeloupean and Indian. Ironically my Mother spent some of her youth growing up in Africa in Cameroon and DRC while my father has only been to Africa once for holidays with work in Morocco, a few years ago. They met in Paris, I think through friends, and both lived in squats around that time.
I grew up in Paris, France, and moved to London at 20 years old. I realised I was mixed-race probably in kindergarten. My best friend at the time was also mixed-race and we always discussed how she was lighter than me despite her Dad being darker than mine but how she had straight hair whilst I had an afro. Other children, pretty much until high school, always made fun of my hair which led me to question why I didn’t look like anybody else a lot. I often joke that my Mother is the more African of them two in the relationship. Growing up there, she always liked the culture whilst I think my Dad, except for music and education, rather rejected it a lot (he’s still never been to the Ivory Coast where my grandparents spend 6 months every year). I don’t think they had major differences, however I know my Grandma on my Mother’s side initially didn’t react very well as she was quite racist. With the years, she learned to be ok with it and she’s very proud of me, but it didn’t always come easy.
I think I’m ‘lucky’ enough to be very White passing. People never know where I’m from and assume I’m White with a dash of something else. That means that many people have had no problem saying all sorts of racist things in front of me, until I tell them my Dad is Black which usually leaves them speechless and embarrassed. Growing up, I didn’t really have anyone I could associate much with, including other mixed-race kids, because I was still quite pale. Everyone (including adults) constantly made fun of the afro I had as a kid leaving me very self-conscious and my mom didn’t know how to take care of it, so I was often at a loss.
Becoming a teenager, I didn’t identify much with my African roots because my own Dad didn’t and started listening to Rock & Roll which drew very predominantly White crowds. I loved concerts and it was one of the few places where I didn’t feel like an outcast, or rather that there it was a cool thing, but even then, I never felt fully comfortable and it seemed to me like I didn’t belong, because everyone around me was so White.
Being mixed-race has made me aware of issues such as race other people might not always think about and I’ve often felt rejected in my life, so I think I’m quite accepting of everyone. I just look for people who are open-minded and not prejudiced against anyone. Other than that, I have a circle of very different friends from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds, ages and personalities, their status or origin never really mattered much to me.
Being mixed-race has made me quite militant and unlike some I can’t let a racist/homophobic/sexist comment pass, so it sometimes alienates certain people but from my point of view, it’s not people I would want to associate with anyway. But again, I’m White passing and have worked in somewhat racist environments before, I suspect if my name didn’t sound so French (my parents chose it purposefully as they were scared a more African-sounding name might make work life more difficult for me down the road) and my skin was a bit darker, things could have been more difficult.
Unfortunately, I just speak French, English and German that I’ve learned at school. My parents only speak French, so I never had a language I could learn from them. I feel like the more languages I speak, the more I know and can connect with people so I’m a bit sad about that but don’t think it made a big difference as I haven’t really met my more distant family that speaks them.
I’m probably closer to my French White side but just because it was the obvious choice and I was not much exposed to the other side. I visited Guadeloupe with my Dad when I was younger, but he didn’t want to see our family there. I felt like I missed out and wanted to go to Ivory Coast when I was younger, but it just never happened, but I still think I will make the trip one day.
When asked where I’m from I usually respond with ‘Where do you think?’. It’s very much a game for me and I’ve heard everything: Iranian, Tahitian, Chinese, Romanian, Cuban, Mexican, Turkish… I recently travelled to Morocco and everyone thought I was from there; a lot of people would just talk to me in Arabic and I often get that in London with various languages.
I love family meetings with my Aunts, cousins, Grandparents and I’m really proud of having such a family. Some members are from Russia, Tchad, Sri Lanka, it’s made me so open-minded to different cultures and perspectives while many people still struggle in their adult lives with understanding that not everyone has the same culture and that’s perfectly okay.
I think being mixed-race has become a lot more accepted (I think we’re the future, whether people like it or not), now more regarded as actually a positive thing, attractive and desirable thing which has shifted from when I was younger.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would be exactly the same, hopefully just with more knowledge of how to take care of my hair! But I am proud of being mixed and it made me who I am, I also learned to be thick skinned and that being different was something to embrace and not be ashamed of.