British | Ghanaian
I identify as a mixed-race British woman, of English, Ghanaian, and Welsh heritage. I have two anthropology degrees and I’ve always been interested in cultural heritage and art history. My particular interests are music & performance. I’ve worked in museums, arts and cultural heritage, and I’ve dabbled a bit in theatre! At the moment I’m an assistant curator in a London museum. My Mum was born in Bromley, south-east London. Her mother - my Grandma - is English, and my Grandpa came to Britain from what used to be the Gold Coast, it is now Ghana. My Grandad on my Dad’s side is English, and my Nana is Welsh. My Dad was brought up in the Midlands and strongly identifies as Welsh. They met as students at University and married shortly after graduating.
I also grew up in Bromley, not far from where my mum grew up. We lived very close to my maternal grandparents and I saw them most days. I’m not sure I can quite pinpoint the age at which I realised I was of different cultural backgrounds. My parents raised me to always identify strongly as mixed-race from a very young age - so it’s always been an important part of who I am, and how I interact with the world. Perhaps it’s an advantage to have a parent who is also mixed-race because it helped me to understand my identity from very early on.
My grandfather came to Britain from what was the Gold Coast, a British colony - he always saw himself as a British citizen. He did however pass on some Ghanaian traditions - particularly our day names. I have two siblings, and it was really important to Mum that all three of us had our Ghanaian day names as part of our legal names. My Grandpa would sometimes call me by my middle name, Adzowa, as that is how I would be called in Ghana. I’ve always loved my name as it’s a wonderful reminder of my roots, and where my family is from.
I wouldn’t say that race or cultural identity plays much of a factor in my friendships, or those I make close connections with. The majority of my friends and colleagues come from white backgrounds, but I also tend to form quick and close bonds with other mixed-race people, perhaps because they understand something about me and my life experience that maybe others don’t.
So far cultural background hasn’t affected my choice in partner. I’m single at the moment, and I’ve experienced some nasty racism on dating apps - ranging from ‘You’re pretty cute, for a mixed chick’ as an opening message, to being called a ‘mulatto’ after the person I was chatting to asked about my background. I would need any partner of mine to fully accept my race and cultural identity, and to understand how navigating certain aspects of the world can be different for people of mixed-race heritage. Perhaps a mixed-race partner would be best at that!
I believe there are most definitely stereotypes towards and about mixed-race people. I find that I’m often asked where I’m ‘really’ from, or else the ruder ‘What are you?’. I’ve also found that some people treat me completely differently upon ‘finding out’ - I’ve experienced people saying ‘Oh, you don’t look mixed-race’, or ‘I don’t think of you as mixed-race!’, or even ‘So that’s why you look a little exotic!’. All of these, however motivated, are still unintentionally hurtful. I’ve had this attitude from people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, including other mixed-race people.
Having worked in theatre I’ve struggled a little in casting situations. If go for a casting where they have specified a mixed-race actress, I’m told I don’t look mixed-race enough. But if I’m put forward for a white character, I get told the opposite. Clearly I don’t fit easily into ethnicity boxes, either on paper or in real life!
I think one of the things I find most difficult is that people tend to read me as white - or else don’t believe that I’m mixed-race or of part African descent - and this clashes with my strong identity as a mixed-race person. Sometimes it’s hard, but sometimes it can actually be quite funny - a lady on the bus once asked me where I got my fake tan done, and then was mortified when I told her my mum is African. People have also asked me if I’m adopted after meeting Mum. I find this laughable, because aside from my blue eyes, straight hair, and slightly lighter skin tone, she and I look very alike!
If I were to be born again, I would always choose to be born again as me. It does not matter whether I look like my mum, or dad, or anybody else on this planet. I’m proud of being a mixed-race woman in a beautiful family.
Prejudice is not easily uprooted, and I fear we will see more of it in the future as we potentially head towards Brexit and isolationism. But an increasing number of families and young people in the UK are mixed-race, we’re beginning to see more and more representation of mixed heritage people in the media and popular culture. I hope one day this will bring increased understanding. Maybe even one day our census boxes will change, and I will be able to select an option that represents me better than ‘Mixed: other’!