English | Jamaican
I identify myself as mixed-Black, Gay and a spiritualist. Both my mum and dad were born in the UK. My mum is White and was born in Ealing, my dad is Black and was born in London. My nan was from Jamaica and came over to London during the Windrush. They met through friends and went to the same school, they moved in the same social circles.
I grew up in Bermondsey, London up until the age of 11. I then moved to Wiltshire with my mum and step dad at the time. I went to a multi-cultural primary school when I grew up in London, but I vividly remember facing a lot of racism too. My first clear memories of knowing I was different was when I was with my mum walking home from somewhere and this White guy walked past us and spat on my shoe. I didn’t really know why he did that at the time, but my mum is White, and I was mixed and whenever we were together that’s when things would happen. The second occasion was when I was 7 years old at school and a White boy called me the N word. I remember coming home and crying to my mum, wiping my arm and saying ‘mummy, mummy I don’t want to be this colour anymore’. It was then that my mum sat me down and said, ‘Emma, be proud of who you are. You are a beautiful young girl and I don’t want you to ever think that your colour is something to be ashamed of. Your black heritage is something to be proud of’. I knew then that I was different and was so much more aware of being mixed-race, also that my mum was White.
There were other things too like coming home and seeing we had been burgled. I remember walking into the flat and seeing graffiti scrawled on the wall that said, “No Backs here White mum”. Walking out of the flat and seeing National Front stickers on our balcony right outside our front door. It was upsetting. I used to play football a lot when I was younger and played for Millwall Lioness’s, my step dad at the time and I were due to go and watch the Millwall men team play at The Den and I was really looking forward to it. I woke up on the Saturday super excited and then my step dad turned around and told me that we weren’t going. I asked why, and he said that it wasn’t an environment for people like us, that there was a lot of racism in football and he wanted to shield me from it, so decided against us going. I was also called the N word at the football club I went to, so my mum took me out of there and told me I wouldn’t be going back.
I have a mixture of friends who are people of colour and White. As a gay woman, I also have a lot of LGBT friends from when I came out at 21. I access LGBT and queer spaces because that is where I feel the most accepted and safe, but I’m also OK in non-LGBT spaces, too. I don’t always feel the need to go to LGBT bars/pubs, I can quite happily navigate non LGBT spaces as I’ve never faced any direct discrimination in them due to being gay, but I have experienced racism in straight places, so for me, when I walk in to a pub and it’s completely White, I am very aware of being bothered sometimes and will be stared at or looked at differently. It always baffles me as to why that is, I don’t see myself as uniquely different whereby people think it’s OK to stare. I think I look very palatable if I’m honest, and although I’m a person of colour, I’m aware of my privilege in certain spaces compared to someone who is a lot darker than me.
Race and culture play a huge part for me. I have dated both White people and PoC. However, if I’m dating someone who isn’t of colour it’s incredibly important to me that they are aware of issues surrounding racism, even down to microaggressions. I want to be able to talk about my thoughts and feelings on race to my partner without them shutting me down or telling me I’m over-reacting. I want someone who is going to be my best ally and educate themselves on things, read books and get to understand the issues faced by PoC, but at the same time be open to acknowledging their privileges. I don’t have a preference of dating someone who is White or PoC, but what I will be aware of is their politics on the issues that matter to me around race and if it’s a dynamic that I feel would work. I remember dating someone of colour and it would be wrong to assume that just because she was Black, that she would feel the same as me about certain issues on race relations or that we would share the same experiences. In fact, she held quite a lot of internalised racism and bias towards the BAME community and didn’t quite understand where I was coming from when I talked about my experiences. It was very tricky to continue building on something. So, for me, whoever she is and wherever she is from, I don’t have a preference, but I will always see race because A) it shows you are acknowledging another person’s lived experience and B) I don’t think you can effectively co-exist without understanding some of the nuances around race and being LGBT.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about mixed race people. People don't like the feeling of not being able to 'place' someone, and this feeling is amplified for people with little exposure to diversity, so I think for some, a mixed-race person can be a bit of anomaly and perpetuate their bias and assumptions towards a marginalised group.
I love the fact that my own experiences of being mixed-race have allowed me to appreciate and celebrate other cultures and embrace difference. I find it so affirming when I’m surrounded by other Black and Brown people and we all connect through our lived experience. I don’t really want to think of anything negative about being mixed race, but if I was to unpack that and give an example, I suppose the feeling, or at least the assumption from others, is that I’m too White in Black spaces, not Black enough or too Black in White spaces. But I generally find that I adapt to situations and environments quite well and I don’t try to be one or the other just to try and fit in. I’m as real as I can be and connect with people on a level by being myself but also aware that I may be put in situations where race is a topic of conversation for some well-meaning White liberals who don’t realise they are playing the savior narrative. That’s when I zone out. I’ve been reading ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Renee Eddo-Lodge and I feel empowered to pick and choose my battles on race, it will only ever be on my terms now and that for me is so affirming.
I’ve no intention of ever wanting to return as something or someone else. I like who I am and the experiences I’ve had have shaped me.
I think the future of mixed-race is complex, scary and exciting all at the same time. The ability for people to box all black and brown people into one is very problematic. But I also think migration is essential to human success, so acceptance will thrive.