English | Zimbabwean
I identify as mixed-race, biracial, bisexual/pansexual or queer & an atheist. My mum is from Zimbabwe and my dad is English. They met in a London hospice where my mum was working as a nurse. I grew up in West Hampstead in North West London.
I was about 4 or 5 when I first began to understand I was of mixed ethnicity. It started when people would comment on my afro hair.
I have a few White friends from school, dating and work. Many of my Black friends I’ve made later after secondary school from pursuing interests like self-development courses and travelling. I also have a few Black and White friends from being on the queer/queer POC scene, volunteering, dating and from the ADHD and improv communities.
Fundamental values for me when choosing a partner are being honest, curious (admitting you don’t know it all and wanting to find out more), openness, striving to be considerate/mindful. A strong sense of humour, fun and playfulness, intelligence and a desire to have deep, complex and interesting conversations and do challenging things.
I most often end up with or attracted to White men unintentionally or not, which may have been influenced by my mum’s outspoken prejudice/wariness against many Black men, which she instilled me after she was cheated on by a fiancé in Zimbabwe. But I also do believe that there is some truth to being attracted to people of the opposite sex in mixed-race situations which match your opposite sex parent’s race, in this case my father’s race. I also often end up with people from middle-class and educated backgrounds unintentionally, as these are most likely to be the people in my circles or have most in common with. But for women it’s different and I think I am more attracted to people of colour than with men and like a wider variety of women, as I find women more generally physically attractive.
I think that men and people of colour, as seen in commercial hip-hop videos, can fetishise, idealise and objectify mixed-race people as sexier or more beautiful than darker skinned women. I also think that mixed-race people can be subject to the same racism as other people of colour if you are still seen and present as ‘non-White’.
Additionally, complicating the issue biased attitudes can come from both sides, as people of colour can also look down on you as not truly ‘Black’ or acting ‘too White’ - betraying your Blackness. And/or possibly be resentful of mixed-race people’s ability to pass as White and their perceived perception of you having the status advantages of White privilege and a White parent.
At primary school I was told that I was a ‘bounty bar’ or a ‘coconut’ because I was acting ‘too White’, not dressing, presenting or talking ‘Black enough’ presumably, which really hurt my feelings at the time and made me feel that I didn’t easily fit in anywhere. As I was also picked on for my differences to White people due to my afro hair.
Later in adulthood I think a positive experience has been embracing my Zimbabwean/African heritage more and identifying more as person of colour and with other people of colour (especially the queer POC community), where before I identified much more with my White friends and family. I now feel proud of my unique heritage and let my hair grow natural again after having it straightened for years as a sign of this.
I think my identity has also allowed me to be in a position of understanding to an extent both White and POC worlds. Privilege and racism and using this position to be an outspoken anti-racist as I grew more confident in my identity. And after reading the transformative and powerful Reni Eddo-Lodge book ‘Why I Am No Longer Talk to White People About Race’, to have some awareness-raising conversations about race and racism with White people.
I have no idea what I would like to come back as if I was to be reborn, I’m happy just being who I am for the most part so haven’t thought of that much. Although I have wondered what it would be like to be a cis White straight neurotypical man for a day and see how much easier it would be, I certainly wouldn’t want to remain one though!
I think that mixed-race people will become more predominant in the Western world, if predicated stats are true they are set to eventually outnumber White people. There will hopefully be more nuanced understanding and acceptance of the complexities of racial identity and a better awareness of White privilege.
Hopefully there will also be better, more realistic representation of mixed-race people in the Western and mainstream media and it will become normal, as is slowly starting to happen. As the media grow more aware of the need for diversity and reflecting their mixed-race audience who ultimately will increasingly buying their products, and so also making more economic sense to tell their stories.
I do believe that however, there is always a backlash which comes with this and is already present, as the status quo fear their position at the top being steadily undermined or threatened. So that unfortunately I think there will always be some form of prejudice and racism as people seek to maintain their advantages.
Combined with being mixed race, I think the aspects that also always made me feel different to everyone else or stand out was being bisexual and having ADHD. The latter especially growing up at school made me feel like I would never really fit in or be popular.
I was a rather lonely, precocious dreamer, living in my own fantasy world and children bullying me at school because of my afro really just compounded and confirmed this sense of innate difference which was already there but I couldn't precisely articulate at the time (ADHD not being very well known about in the late 80s/early90s and certainly very much missed in inattentive girls), but painfully felt was there all along.
Behind all this and informing this sense of loneliness and not fitting in, was also the fact that I was an only child whose mother was busy as a nurse and later theatre manager working till late at night. She herself came from an African culture and upbringing with her grandmother that gave her a very disciplined hard working ethic and probably made her want to prove herself in a rather racist hierarchical system, so there was definitely a sense of rejection and identifying with my father (and therefore white side of my family more as mentioned already) who mostly brought me up.
My bisexuality also complicated things with identifying with the black side of my family as whenever I went to see my family in S.Africa there was a sense that homophobia was still very common (at my cousin's wedding, for example, the priest said apropos of nothing: 'it's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve'). Whilst my mum outright refused to accept my bisexuality at the start, even thought I would grow out of it, and still has trouble accepting it. Whilst my partner family mostly accepted it and even embraced it, and a fond memory I have is of my paternal grandmother Paula is being sent a card saying that she would accept anyone I would choose to bring.