British | African-American
Mum was born in the UK to British Parents and Dad was born in the USA to an African-American father and a British mother. My parents met in the UK. I grew up around the South East area of London / North West Kent. I think growing up and seeing multi-culturalism regularly cemented the belief in myself as a mixed race person. And although where I grew up I came across few African American people, seeing the mix of other people’s culture, encouraged me to appreciate that both sides of my own heritage were equally as important.
My closest friends in primary school were a group including myself, a Sri Lankan kid, a Nigerian kid, a British kid, and a Traveller kid. Probably, that just taught me everyone was unique. I remember from an early age understanding my parents were of different nationalities and that they had different passports. I knew I was proud to have an American father. And I knew my skin was different to a lot of the other kids and changed in the sun differently to others, but I don’t know if that means I understood the concept of race. I do remember on the way to the same school one morning having an informative conversation with my mum and I know that brought me more understanding.
A lot of the time I’ve been surrounded by and engaging in British culture but for as long as I’ve recognized myself to be part African - American, I’ve been proud to be so. And I was frequently reminded of that pride through African American presence in the media, through learning our history, or stories and experiences from and with with the family. I’ve always felt that side of me, and, as I always have been, I’m enthusiastic about it. The difficulty I found was that the way I identify wasn’t often the way I was perceived by others. Growing up at times I might have felt it would be easier, nicer or more fitting to have blacker features. Racial tensions between white and black at times have been provocative, and while there were certainly strong black and mixed communities in London, I wasn’t involved in any strong African-American community. So, I found that I was trying to find my own stance on things, without so much guidance, whilst being aware it’s likely that people won’t see me as the way I see myself. The way I came to be much more comfortable with the person I am now however, was through, without shame, making an attempt to learn everything I felt I wanted to learn and experience everything I felt I wanted to experience.
I think being mixed race has had an effect on the things I like, the music I enjoy, the food I eat, languages I’ve learnt. For a while I’ve gravitated, in part, to people, places and experiences that allow me to connect with black and mixed race cultue. And through these experiences, as well as those of British influence, I’ve picked up a lot of my knowledge and a lot of what I enjoy. People might not have always identified with me the same way I identify with them, however, the vast majority of people treat me appropriately as an individual and have been kind. This has been an integral part of the foundation for my confidence and drive in working out and trying to become the person I want to be.
I speak English, which ended up being the language both sides of my cultures use. However, as someone who happens to be a language enthusiast, I’ve learnt a few languages. This includes attempts at learning languages motivated by a desire to feel connected with my African or African – American roots.
More than anything I feel connected to London culture. I feel truly that here in the London area we have our own particular culture and understanding that prevails through a people with a variety of backgrounds, I’m glad to be a part of it and I know it’s shaped me as a person.
If someone asks me where I’m from, most times I’ll say ‘I’m from London’, which sometimes isn’t quite the answer they were looking for. In case it’s not the answer they were looking for, I do my best to maintain a facial expression that says ‘It’s okay to ask a follow up question if you want to’.
Being mixed race and looking racially ambiguous has allowed me to fit in visually with a variety of ethnic groups, even ones I don’t belong to, people often see a resemblance of themselves in me, and that’s tended to be a positive experience.