English/Welsh/Israeli | Jamaican/Chinese/Cuban
I identify as a dual Heritage, heterosexual male raised in a Christian system of faith and culture. My mum is from Jamaican/Chinese and Cuban decent and my dad is of English/ Welsh and Israeli Heritage. They met while my dad was teaching drama lecturer / playwrite and my mother was a photography lecturer and drama student at the same institution. I grew up in the north of England in Leeds. I carry great pride in being a Yorkshire man.
The earliest recollection I have of recognizing that I was mixed-raced was probably in my early primary school years. I remember a drawing exercise in which we had to draw our family. The other kids were using colouring pencils to draw their families in all pink or all brown/black. I drew my mother in brown and my father in pink and then came to the dilemma of identifying a colour within the pack that represented my complexion. The off-light brown didn’t quite fit. When asked for assistance I was just told to pick one colour as it would ruin the picture. As there was no adequate colour within the pack that reflected my complexion. I defiantly tried to mix black and pink which created a funny colour that didn’t quiet reflect the image I was trying to represent. I remember feeling frustrated and annoyed at the inaccuracy of the drawing. I think this was probably when I first recognised not only that I was mixed of differing races/colours but that there was complexity in representing this to others accurately. I recognised I was going to have to work out how I wanted to be perceived, and that I wasn’t going to wear a Black or White colour. I think this was probably when I also realised the challenges of understanding the contradictions that being ‘mixed-race’ my present.
I feel extremely blessed and fortunate that my parents both had a strong sense of identity, understanding and pride in their own and each other’s cultures. I grew up in an environment of mutual respect and willingness to balance and share each other’s cultures norms and values. My mother a proud and educated Black women taught me about west-Indian food, values and politics. Equally my father taught me and my mother about Welsh poets and writers and music from genres of rock and indie.
I feel in my teens the challenges I experienced were both external and internal around my mixed identity. I grew up in a place and time that derogatory terms like ‘half caste ‘, ‘half breed’ ‘lighty’ and ‘mongrel’ were used to describe people of mixed identity often. This was especially challenging as a teenager attempting to develop my own positive self-identity as these terms suggested that my very existence was a lesser one of halves and not hole to me. There was also the challenge of not being White enough for the White kids and not Black enough for the Black kids. I think the greatest challenge was seeing mixed-race as something strange and shifting. I think I was attempting to clearly establish a sense of self, I felt like in comparison to my none mixed friends I was attempting to forge my identity in a more confusing space.
My life experiences have at times included been asked uneducated and uncomfortable questions about my race and culture which has at times been massively unpleasant. Although positively it helped me to understand what I want from the interactions I have with friends and partners. I am now most definitely drawn to individuals who are conscious, sensitive and mindful to how they approach not only conversations around race but all subject matters. I think its also made me more aware of my own prejudice to others and has attracted me to reflective and self-aware individuals. In terms of partners I think the social environment I have chosen to put myself in has drawn me to like-minded individuals who enjoy educating themselves and have had shared or similar experiences, the large benefit of this has been that I don’t always have to explain my perspective, I feel there is power in feeling seen and understood with out explanation.
My positive and negative experiences of being mixed-race have most definitely shaped my career and interest, developing self-awareness, reflective thinking and the ability to articulate my perspective around identity and culture has projected me into a career within psychological therapies, and inclusion and diversity programs within corporate organizations. It has been a blessing to work with young mixed-race males and help them work through the challenges of understanding their own dual heritage. I believe my experiences as a mixed-race individual to have directly facilitated the development of character and skills to champion these roles.
My grandparents speak English or the Jamaican dialect of patios, which I can speak and understand clearly. It makes me extremely happy to interact with them and listen to them talk in their native tongue. This continues to enrich my life and sense of connection to my heritage.
I have learnt to connect with each part of my culture differently. There is no hierarchy or value on one more than the other. The West Indian, Cuban and Jamaican/ Chinese side has heavily influenced my values, attitude politics and musical interest due to the passion expressed for these areas by my mother and grandparents. The appreciation from my dad for English and Welsh classical literature, poetry and art has also impacted me massively, leading to my larger friendship group and hobbies being in the arts. Being mixed-race in today’s society is challenging and exciting.
When people ask where I’m from I always say I am from Leeds. And I usually repeat that until they say. No, no where are you really from. To which I reply Leeds.
A less positive experience of being mixed-race (of Jamaican /Chinese, Cuban/ Israeli and Welsh heritage), has been that of falling into the trap of dating women who fetishised and exoticised me because of my mixed-race heritage. I have found the experience of been exoticised in regard to my foreign heritage and cultural practices in a stereotypical and superficial way to be extremely unflattering. Although I believe I was understood and respected, they did so while fetishising my race; and therefore, my existence.
If I was to be born again, I would want to come back with the exact same biological makeup, parents and experiences. I feel extremely privileged and blessed to have the mix of heritage I have. To have had the opportunity to be involved close up with so many cultures mixed into one has been a fantastic and has shaped me and molded me into someone I can say I’m proud to be.