English | Trinidadian
My identity is based around my race. My father is from Trinidad and my mother from Rugby, England. They were both teachers and met whilst they were at work. I grew up in Crystal Palace, London.
I recognised I was mixed-race at around the age of 13 or 14. I would get teased by my friends, using words such as zebra or that I looked like a pedestrian crossing.
My father moved to the UK when he was only 18 months old, so he was very disconnected from his birth country. For all intents and purposes, he was British or at the very most of mixed cultural heritage although both of his parents were pure blood Trinidadians.
Growing I always felt outside the group, othered and like I didn’t belong. In many ways back then it was very difficult to understand my identity as I did not have a group or a heritage which I felt I could truly relate to. This led to have to be very introspective and create my own original identity. In all honesty it was a blessing, being mixed has enabled me to integrate with other cultures seamlessly as I don’t have an us versus them mentality as I do not have an us to start off with. In this regard over time I have just picked up and kept the best aspects of each culture and allowed myself the freedom to identify and create myself however I like.
To an extent, I’m lucky as I grew up in Croydon which is a very multicultural part of London. Although a lot of the schools I went to were predominantly White, being able to be in such a mixed demographic is such a blessing. As such, appreciation of different cultures is always a prerequisite.
I work as a model part-time, so it gives me an edge sometimes when looking for work and then with refugees and asylum seekers as my 9 to 5. In this regard my experiences growing up have helped me to relate to other more easily in my personal opinion, and always find a way to connect and reach the client’s that we work with.
Having grown up in Croydon I got stopped by Police a lot less than my Black friends would. I would get treated by teachers and strangers on the street better. In that sense I have been privileged. However, these days I see more stereotypes arising around mixed people, that we are sensitive or highly concerned with how we look etc. But to be honest I find it amusing, at the end of the day I know who I am, and I think it’s very difficult to put mixed-race people on a box because within ourselves we are all very different. Each and every one of us has had to go through our own personal journey of self-discovery more than the average person. So regardless of whatever stereotypes might arise I think it’s pretty hard to seriously by into them.
I am unable to speak my native languages, in fact I am very disconnected with my father’s heritage because he was. In as much I think at times this has made me feel isolated even from some other mixed-race people as whilst biologically I am mixed culturally I am less so than others. I think this is why I always am so interested by how different cultures interact with one another. If I would have to describe my identity I would say I was a Londoner. In the sense that I feel like the culmination of many different cultures.
In a weird way I don’t connect with either of my cultures, White English people can often be too racist for me to be able to feel like I can truly connect with that side of my heritage and my Caribbean roots never played a huge role in my life growing up.
When asked where I’m from, at first, I will say London, although I know what the real question being asked is. To be honest it depends on who’s asking. Some people give off a certain vibe that makes me feel like they don’t warrant an answer other or make me feel uncomfortable. At the end of the day after spending years trying to build myself outside of a specific tribe the last thing I want is to be put into a box.
A negative for me, growing up mixed in an environment that doesn’t understand what you are and constantly tries to place you one or the other side of your heritage. A positive, having gone through that journey and understanding that you don’t need to be in a box nor can or should anyone be put in one. It is a true blessing, I think I know, trust and love myself as much as I do because of the beautiful skin I am in.
Being mixed in today’s society is much easier than when I was young. Where I live there are people who look like me everywhere! But I remember when I was still a kid throughout my whole school career I only came across around 5 or 6 other White/Black mixed-race kids. I think the mixed-race kids growing up these days will find it easier than I did.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I would like to come back exactly the way I am. I wouldn’t trade being mixed for any other race, if anything I wish I was more mixed! I look forward to raising my kids knowing I’ll be able to help them on this journey. I like the fact that I am different, that it has taught me to think more independently and to seek out my own truths. Being mixed has given me the confidence to always be myself and not be easily mislead by others and in this game of life where we are all trying to find our way and our place in the world. I don’t think I would have made it as far down the road as I have without my curly hair and beautiful bronze skin. Having green or light brown eyes would have been nice though.