English | Guyanese
I identify as mixed-race English Guyanese & heterosexual. My mum is from England and my Dad is from Guyana. They met in London through my mum’s work colleague. I grew up in Putney, southwest London.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I recognized I was mixed-race, there are a littering of key moments that I’ll always remember which essentially boil down to feeling a difference to my peers and those around me. For example, a kid in a playground in France asked if I was dirty and I remember my mum having to explain that brown was the colour of my skin because I had a White Mother and Black Father. Another moment that stands out is when all my classmates in my 99% Caucasian primary school pointed at me while repeatedly calling me an Alien. The teacher, untrained to navigate a situation like that, didn’t do anything really which reaffirmed that I was different because of the way I looked and thus where I was from. I then went to a much more multicultural & diverse secondary school where I was called a bounty/oreo and wasn’t ‘Black’ enough to seamlessly fit in there either. I say ‘Black’ enough because generally I am seen as a Black person regardless of the fact that I am mixed.
My Father left when I was very young and is estranged from his family, so I have little knowledge of him or his Guyanese culture. My upbringing was predominantly White British. My Mum; a super strong, intelligent, well-travelled and independent woman raised my brother and I to believe we could achieve anything regardless of race. However, she also taught us to be aware of the prejudices/racism we might face being mixed. I am very conscious that I know next to nothing about my Guyanese heritage and it’s something I am actively trying to change right now.
My hair was also a defining product of these two cultures combining. My White Mother tried to figure out how to cope with this mixed hair type, getting tips from friends at work on what kind of products to use. We tried ALL the different types of grease. Once we discovered the resilience of braids we would sit doing it together, she started a braid and me finishing it for hours, that’s a memory I’ll always hold dear to my heart.
I’ve had a lot of challenges relating to my self-esteem in terms of the way I look, and although these are definitely personal insecurities they also stem from issues with my mixed identity. I had a lack of exposure to Black/mixed culture growing up and the objects of desire among my peers were everything I wasn’t, White, blonde etc. The first boy I fancied said if he could change anything about me it would be to make my hair blonde & straight and my eye colour blue. And then on a wider scale there weren’t many mixed role models in the media, no mixed Disney princess etc. As a result, I had a hard time accepting my ‘Black & mixed’ features. It seems quite obvious now, but I had mainly put it down to pressures everyone is put under to achieve a perfect body etc rather than rejecting my heritage. It makes me so sad to think of how much I wanted a nose job from such a young age, to make it less flat and more Caucasian basically. I managed to suffocate myself with those kinds of feelings for years. My mind absolutely boggles when I think about it now! I am happy to say I now love and celebrate my mix and all of my features. I’m also thankful and not regretful for how these challenges have shaped me into who I am today. I strongly believe our identity is so much more than where you are from or what you look like.
I connect most with being a Londoner and a kid who’s grown up in a fast paced and industrious city. I feel lucky to live somewhere so multicultural and diverse where I am able to experience so many cultures on my doorstep.
When people ask me where I’m from I usually say London and then when they say, ‘no but where are you FROM?’ I eventually say that my Dad’s from Guyana to which most people say, ‘ah Africa’.
I love that being mixed-race is essentially a result of the world connecting and different cultures creating and growing together. I think as I grow older I am aware of it much more and although that’s down to my own personal journey I think it is also in part because it is way more common place which I love. I was recently quite deeply affected by a conversation I had with a lady of similar background to me, sharing very similar stories where I felt so comforted and excited in being able to share with someone who could identify. We talked for hours and I realised that the reason it had this effect was that despite having a mixed brother and a fair few mixed friends it’s just not a conversation I’ve had before.
I believe it is not just media representation of all ethnicities that is needed but also actual conversation and education surrounding them that has a huge role to play in battling any kind of negativities people face due to a misunderstanding of their culture/ethnicity. Which is why this project is so great and I’ve found it very comforting reading through all the amazing stories. I think it would be so interesting to hear the stories of parents of mixed-race children too.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I wouldn’t want to change anything except maybe having a hoverboard from back to the future, I’d really hoped we’d have those by now.