British | Caribbean
I identify as heterosexual, mixed-race British/Caribbean. My mum comes from Roseau, the capital of Dominica in the West Indies (her preferred term). My father is British, born in London. They met in London at a mutual friend’s party in the 1970s. I grew up in a small town in South Wales called Monmouth.
It’s hard to say when I recognised I was mixed-race. Probably primary school (around 9-10 years old), I remember a boy in my class saying he didn’t like me because I was Brown, that might have been a moment of realisation. I do also remember wishing my hair was like all the rest of my friend’s hair. You know; long, straight and flowing. My hair was fuzzing and stuck out. That started from infant school. I guess I realised I was different then.
My dad is from quite a posh British family. In Dominica where my mum was brought up they were really big on British culture. Very Dominican, of course, but they were also brought up to be very British (or at least what they gathered to be British), maybe even more so than some in the UK. She once told me that when she first came to the UK she was really surprised that everyone here didn’t have afternoon tea every day and speak perfect Queens English. My mum probably slotted into the culture quite easily. Although growing up we were surround much more by my dad’s British culture than my mums as she had no family here and we only ever went to Dominica once when I was 1 year old. I think for my mum it was more about being British than teaching others about her culture, I guess that’s the way it was when she was growing up.
I’ve experienced lots of challenges. Having grown up in the South Wales an almost completely White town I always just wanted to fit in and be just like everyone else. I wanted to be looked at as someone who is just like everyone else. I guess it was all a bit confusing. Although, having said that, I had hardly any comments from people in our small town. Small towns are funny places, there is a lot of casual racism thrown around without people realising it is offensive. The most challenging thing is deciphering it all, I find the subject very confusing.
I don’t think being mixed-race has had much of an effect on my work life. Being in the food industry. I think people don’t expect someone like me to do what I do, I’m a chef and sell my own products. I think people still find it intriguing.
As I’ve never personally received any bias attitudes or stereotypes I’m not sure if others have experienced this as such, as we live in London we are surrounded by diversity, so I hope this is not the case.
My mum spoke English and Patois & French at home when she was growing up. I never learned any Patois or French. I don’t think that has affected me although I do wish she had taught me.
I connect with my dad’s British side the most as it is pretty much all I know. My mum’s family was always so far away, and they never came to visit us, not when I was old enough to remember anyway. To me I am British with a Caribbean mum, I think my personality is very British and not at all Dominican.
When people ask where I’m from firstly I would say Wales. Then I realised that is not the answer people are looking for, that answer isn’t good enough. ‘Where are you reeeally from?’ they say. I have to give a long explanation. ‘My mum is from Dominica in the Caribbean and my dad is from London, but I grew up in South Wales’. This happens a lot.
One negative experience for me personally is feeling like you don’t really fit in on either side. I’m not Black and I’m not White, I’m kind of in the middle, I can tend to feel like I have a mixed-up identity and can find the whole subject very confusing. On the other hand, it is good to feel like you can have a connection to both cultures. Another positive experience is the feeling of being a bit exotic and people find that interesting. That makes me feel good.
I think being mixed-race in today’s society is a good place to be. Diversity is a very good thing and lots (sadly not all) realised that. I think in London having a diverse background can definitely play to your favour. People are interested in who you are, what your background is and what you can bring to the table. It’s definitely not easy or simple. On a personal level I think this also depends on where you grew up and your surroundings. I think I found it quite difficult because I had not many others like me around. Also, my parents didn’t really get on that well, so I think that intensified my insecurities about my identity/looks etc.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to be born the same. I am who I am and wouldn’t change that because I like where I have come from in terms of race and where I grew up. The only thing I would change is that I would like to have had a better connection with my mum’s side of the family, learned more and integrated more with my Dominican side.