British | Malawian
My Dad was really good at Math’s, he won a scholarship to go to a University in London. That is how he met my mum. They got married and moved to Malawi and had my brother and I.
I remember an incident at Malawi airport. The person on the front desk asked my parents if they were together!! And when they said “yes”, he then said, “is this your child”. My parents said “Oh yes”, he was really happy after that. I did not understand the reaction. I asked my mum, “why is he so happy that you are married?!!”. Mum explained about apartheid in South Africa at the time which meant black & white could not marry. To see a black & white couple with a child was like a signifier, that times had changed. I was a kid. I had no awareness of racial discrimination.
I have incredible light skin but my hair is very curly. At 7, I wanted straight hair and I would cry. My mum did not know what to do because she raised me to be proud of whom I was (but she had straight hair so she couldn't say anything). She took me to get my hair relaxed when I was 9. I was so happy. In those days women of colour had straight hair. The only people who didn’t have straight hair were the people who I now respect, like black writers and activist but at 8 years old you don’t think that’s cool. You didn’t want to look like Tracy chapman, you wanted to look like some Hollywood glamour. My hair is still a big part of my life. I never felt comfortable going to a white hairdresser or to a black hairdresser. A natural afro always attracts attention, even if it’s a compliment, sometimes you want to be invisible and you can't do that with big curly hair. As a kid we would shop at the black hair store. It was great. I felt part of the community because my mum had no idea how to manage my hair. Talking to someone who knew how to deal with it was great.
We moved again this time to Cheshire outside Manchester. I regret that because I wanted to live somewhere more diverse. From the age of 5 to 18 I always felt odd.
I don’t think it's easier to be any race. In terms of your sense of happiness, your race is not going to make a difference - you just have to come to terms with who you are and try.