English/Irish/German | Russian/Zimbabwean
I identify as mixed, atheist & straight. My mum is mixed Russian and Zimbabwean, she was raised mainly in Guildford, England and Zimbabwean. My dad is mixed English, Irish & German. He was raised in Bexleyheath & London. They met in London in the 90’s.
I was born in London, but we moved the US when I was 4. Originally, we moved to Brooklyn then settled in a New Jersey suburb called Montclair. Montclair is a very diverse town, both ethically and economically. Montclair is also a very liberal town; allowing me to have teachers who weren’t afraid to share their opinions on what they taught and peers who were able to express themselves however they wished. Growing up I always felt safe and knew I had friends who accepted me in whatever form I presented myself.
I knew from a young age that I was mixed, mainly because no one in primary school really knew that Zimbabwe is a country, their parents would have something to say about ‘the Russians’ and someone would ALWAYS have a comment about my parents’ accents.
My Grandad was from Zimbabwe, he died before I was born. Because his family is so far away, I have never known anyone from his family and my mom never taught us about their culture or traditions. Her mother is from Russia and her family stayed there so again I didn’t know much about them or their culture. However, because my dad’s family were all in England that was the culture that I was raised in. So being British was the only culture I knew. As I grew up, I learned how to be American and began to bring American cultures into my home.
When I was younger the biggest difficulty I had was deciding between being American and British. Growing up I would say things differently, not really celebrate Thanksgiving, and not necessarily know all the social norms that are different between Americans and Brits. It was only once I left home and moved back to London that I began to think more about race and realized I knew next to nothing about my own. The biggest challenge has been learning about my cultures and how they fit into who I have become.
Being mixed-race has never affected my work life. Within my personal life it has a huge impact. Since moving to London, I have become much more aware of the fact that I know very little about where my family comes from. London is an amazing place where you can celebrate your own identity without fear of ridicule or judgment. There is an amazing movement happening within my generation that is full of people using varying mediums to confidently honor their cultures. Not knowing enough about everywhere that I come from makes me feel pretty insecure when I’m surrounded by people who do.
I can only speak English. I don’t feel as though it’s affected me because we live in an age where I can use Google, YouTube and a whole bunch of other apps to learn a language if I’d like. I connect most with being British. Ever since the age of 10 I knew I wanted to come back. It’s where my extended family live, and it was where I was born. I’m proud to say that I’m a Londoner (even if not everyone believes me when I say it).
When being asked where I’m from at first, I would say Peckham because that’s where I live. Then when I see the confused look on people’s face (because of my accent) I go into my shorted story of my upbringing. Usually this gets people interested and it begins a whole conversation about my life, which as long as the vibe is right, and I haven’t already talked about it yet that day, I don’t mind talking about. If people then ask where my parents are from, I just say the countries, but they were mainly raised in England. Again, this usually sparks peoples’ interest. This is where I tend to clam up and try to move the conversation along because I feel ashamed, I don’t know much about where my parents are from.
I’d say all of my life has been a positive experience. I feel honoured to carry the ancestry of so many groups of people in my blood. Any negative experiences have happened because of other circumstances in my life, not my ethnicity. Being mixed-race in today’s society is pretty damn cool. I can fit in wherever I’d like.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would return as a pizza, hoping someone would enjoy me as much as I enjoy pizza.