British | Nigerian

I would identify myself as mixed-race, 25% Black Nigerian and 75% White. My dad is 50:50 English/Scottish but basically White British, my mum is 50:50 Nigerian/British. She has never been to Nigeria. They met at University but split in the first year after I was born. I grew up with my mum in a predominantly White area of England. I’ve always been interested in online communities so found my home online in the mixing pot of cultures for most of my teenage life.

I feel like I’ve known I was mixed-race all my life, me and my mum have such different skin tones, but our face shapes are recognisably similar. It was definitely made clear to me as a very young child when I never saw another person of African descent in nursery or primary school. During school I would latch onto anyone who was also outcast or different, whether that be because of race or anything else. I never had another mixed-race person like me in my close circles. Now I prefer to have the widest possible range of friends from all backgrounds possible but have still never met a mixed-race person like me with such light skin and no African culture at all.

Race does not effect my choice in partner, but I do find it hard to converse freely with people who have had no experience with racism outside of textbooks. I don’t tend to have much in common with White people who grew up separate from the wider world.

There are definitely bias attitudes towards mixed-race people, I have personally experienced it; from teachers not wanting to do my hair for school plays or yelling at me about hair extensions in gym class. And from the Black community that refuses to accept me since I have White skin and no African culture. It’s the middle ground where you get ignorance and rejection from both sides. At least in modern media the caramel coloured mixed-race women now exist but skin colours are all shades of a spectrum and I’m still seen as too White to be mixed.

At dance class when I was very young I was always known as the Black kid, even though my skin was fairly light. The uniform hair styles for exams and shows was almost impossible to do with my natural hair so much that the costume people refused to touch mine and my mum had to do it. It wasn’t until secondary school when I finally met other Black people my age, I was relieved and made friends. However, I was always treated like an outsider to them because I have a culturally White upbringing and my skin is very light. With straight hair most people won’t even notice I’m mixed but last year I cut all my hair off so I could grow my natural hair out for the first time in over a decade and it’s been amazing.

My only other Nigerian friend in school took it upon herself to explain to me about my African culture that neither me nor my mum had ever experienced or learnt about. I owe her everything as that alone kept me from being lost in the sea of “I don’t even know who I am” that filled my mind. I still know very little, but I have a start.

When I was younger I tried really hard to be White, but you can’t change your genes, so I was always just the weird one in every situation. My mum and I don’t share a surname either, so every teacher parent meeting day would be stressful as people wouldn’t realise we were related at first. And I always had to explain my mum’s Nigerian surname pronunciation, but they would just be confused because I do not look African so ‘why would I know that?’. I chose to go to an international 6th form so I could experience as many cultures as possible. This truly changed my life as I realised the world isn’t as closed off and ‘White dominated’ as Surrey is and that I can find a home with other misfits & mixed-race teens. We all share the same struggles.

If I had the chance to be reincarnated I wouldn’t mind what background I’d be born into, but I do acknowledge the privilege I’ve had as a white passing teenager in these times, even though it’s felt very isolating trying to be someone that I am not.

There are so many mixed-race people now, that number will only continue to grow. I already notice the difference in mixed-race model numbers in clothing adverts from when I was a child. I’d never seen another person’s Afro in real life till I was a teenager running around London alone. Diversity in media is everything, just knowing others are out there like you would have changed my childhood so I really hope in the future we can get to a place where every possible culture is visible in popular media and no one feels gatekept by another culture.