English | Jamaican
I identify as mixed-race English and Jamaican. As a non-White person, I regard myself as politically black. I grew up as an only child of a White mother and Jamaican father in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in the 80’s & 90’s. I moved to London when I was eighteen to study drama at University and pursue a career in the Arts. I’ve been working as a professional actor for the last fifteen years.
My mum was born and raised in Yorkshire and still lives there, my dad (now deceased) was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica and came over to the UK in approximately 1964. I think my parents met on a night out in Bradford in 1979.
I was at nursery school, when I remember one of the other children asking why my skin was brown and hers wasn’t. This was the first time I recognised myself as being different to other White children in my class.
Since moving to London when I was eighteen, I have a much broader group of friends, with regard to ethnicity, social background and sexual orientation, than I did growing up in Yorkshire. As a child, I was quite cut off from the Caribbean side of my heritage, partly through being much closer to my mum than my dad, and partly through not wanting to be seen as too ‘different’ to my largely White school friends.
Now, I do tend to have friends who are culturally similar, but more in the sense that most of them also work in the Arts and have a similar political outlook and educational background. I see those things to form part of a ‘culture’ also. Within this culture, there are many ethnicities and stories. I think I would date a person of any race, though I do notice myself feeling particularly curious about other mixed-race people’s backgrounds, at the moment. Generally, I think I can find anyone of any race attractive.
I think there are stereotypes around mixed-race people. Growing up, being non-White = negative, whatever shade your skin. Only more recently, I have become aware of the fetishisation of the ‘light skin’ Brown people in pop culture, particularly amongst younger millennials. I’ve also become aware of the concept of light skin privilege, in a way that wasn’t even in my consciousness, growing up.
Last year, I decided to take a DNA ancestry test just for fun. Since my dad died fourteen years ago, I have wanted to know more about our lineage. I had always considered myself as half ‘Caribbean’, but on tracing my DNA back to Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, I now feel much more of a link to Africa. Obviously, I was already aware of the history of slavery, but to have it all mapped out in front of me was an emotional experience.
Growing up, I spent most of my time around White members of my family. As most of my friends were White, I was limited to dating within that demographic. As I get older, travel more and grow as a person, I have found myself much more attracted to people of other ethnicities. My parents were never married, though they lived together. I have never particularly aspired to be married either.
I like being mixed race, along with every other aspect of my identity. This is something I would not change if I had the chance to be reborn. It’s been a struggle at times, but I’m grateful for who I am.
It’s difficult to gauge how the future will look for mixed-race people. I read recently that it’s the fastest growing ethnic group in the UK, so I would hope eventually this will make it more and more difficult to uphold racist constructs. I think we’re still a long way from that yet, though. Very few people are ‘pure-blood’ anyway and there’s no reason to want to be.