English/Irish | St Lucian
I identify as mixed-race; UK & St Lucian if the world asks but just Brown to me. My mum is Irish-English born in England and my dad is St Lucian and came over here by boat when he was nine. They met at night school in London. My mum was a student and my dad was working there as the site-manager. He always used to hang around outside her class when it finished and then one day he said, ‘it’s my birthday tomorrow, wanna buy me a drink’. That was that. They moved to Brighton when I was about 4 as my younger sister had bad asthma. My dad always says he was the first Black man in Brighton.
I grew up in Brighton and moved to London when I was 18 for drama school. In my year at secondary school there was one Indian girl, one Black girl and two mixed-race girls including me so being there I was always very aware of my race. I went to four schools over the course of my education but at school number two I got bullied for looking different. I believe at this school from what I can remember I was one of only two Brown children, the other being my younger sister, who although we share the same parents has a lot less curly hair than me. I even remember the bully saying that my sister was better than me because she didn’t have afro hair. As an eight-year-old I’m pretty sure I internalised that as even to this day I have a lack of confidence regarding my hair.
I remember joining the police cadets aged 14/15 and well and in the interview being told ‘I would double the ethnic quota’. Moving to London for me was magical. Suddenly there were people everywhere that looked like me and had similar hair and I didn’t feel so odd one out anymore. After drama school I moved to Essex with my other half where for the first time in my life I was stopped and searched while walking home after rehearsals at The National Theatre, due to looking suspicious.
The first recollection I have I was mixed is when I was probably about 6/7, one of the boys in my class asking me why my skin was browner than his, not in a nasty way just out of curiosity. I remember going home and looking at my parents and comparing our skin and thinking it was like paint, if you mix dark brown and white together it comes out as light brown, so that what must have happened to me. I was always aware that I was different shape to the other girls in my class and always used to compare the size of my lips, bum etc to them and be sad I wasn’t the same. I think the media has something to do with that as well though as in the 90s there weren’t as many people who looked like me on TV or in books. Even my Black barbie was basically White barbie dipped in dye.
My friendship ground is fairly mixed, I have friends from all walks of life. I don’t think race, sexual orientation or religion play a part. Coming from Brighton which is very liberal everything thing seems normal to me. People are just people and should be allowed to do (within reason) whatever makes them happy. Who are we to judge if that fits into our definition of acceptable or not.
I’ve been with my other half for nearly 6 years now so its hard to say. He is White and grew up in east London so no I don’t think race or culture played a role in my decision. I love him because he makes me laugh and is one of the most loyal generous people I know.
I think there are bias attitudes towards mixed-race people to an extent. In the UK I’m classed as ‘Black’ but in St. Lucia I am the English girl, so no country really classes me as belonging to them. People also assume that you should sound a certain way to match with the way you look, and my voice never seems to fit what people expect. I have lost track of the amount of times I have been called an Oreo, or a coconut. The world can sometimes make you feel like you don’t belong.
A positive I can take from my mixed heritage is that I’m different, who wants to be the same as everyone else!
If I that the opportunity to be born again I would come back as myself, but with the knowledge that I wasn’t always going to feel left out.
The future of mixed-race is endless, we are the fastest growing race now I believe. One day everyone will be mixed-race in some way. The more diverse the world become the more everyone understands each other’s culture, tradition and religions and I think that’s brilliant.