French | Malagasy/Comorian
I identify as mixed-race, mixed Black and White. My Dad is French, and my Mum is half Malagasy and half Comorian. She was born and raised in Toliara, Madagascar. Some people found out it was a real country through me! I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked about the cartoon. My parents met in St Germain, Paris, 35 years ago. It was one of those things when sparks flew, and my dad came home to his parents, aged 19 and said, ‘I found the love of my life, she’s Black, Muslim, 7 years older and still married but separated’. They had a bit of a shock to be honest.
My father was raised as a Catholic but doesn’t have a religion now, my mother is Muslim. Islam isn’t the main religion in Madagascar, but it is in the Comoros Islands where my maternal grandfather is from. They chose to raise my sister and I without a religion even though both sets of grandparents wanted us baptised according to their religion.
I grew up from the age of 2 in a small village in Normandy. There weren’t many families of colour. My mum was definitely the only Black mum picking up my sister and I from school. We were the only ones with afro hair and braids and that attracted quite a lot of attention, mostly in bad way. People were so curious and intrigued that I felt like a freak show sometimes having hair like mine, especially when people were touching it without asking.
I can’t pinpoint one precise event of when I became aware of being different. It probably would have been as a small child getting comments about my hair that is naturally afro. People trying to touch it. Asking if it’s real and who's braiding my hair like that. Then also at school I remember we had to draw self-portrait and I was the only one being told to use a different colour pencil for my skin.
My friendship circle is varied. There’s White people and people of colour. I don’t feel like my race, sexual orientation or lack of religion ever played a part in it. Growing up, I mostly had White friends. Not out of choice but because there was a majority of White people where I lived. In London now, I make friends with mainly migrants, through work as well. It definitely is amazing to be able to interact with people who understands that feeling of belonging to two different races and cultures.
I don’t have specific criteria I look for in a partner. However, I can smell from a distance when people classify me as ‘an exotic thing’. It’s pretty disturbing and I avoid from these situations like the plague.
I do think there’s still bias attitudes towards mixed people. Being a light skinned person mixed with Black, all my life I’ve been fetishised and said that I’m ‘lucky for having a small nose’ or not being ‘dark skinned’. That comment has come from White people but also sadly, from Black people.
Four years ago, I started to relax my hair and that was an eye opener. Having straight hair has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Suddenly people acted a different way around me when I stopped being so easily identified as being part Black. I’ve had people telling me I just look White Mediterranean and that genuinely upset me. I find it very unpleasant to have a part of my identity erased because I’m genuinely proud of it. I’m now on a journey to go back to my natural hair. It seems like such a small detail but loving my afro hair is part of loving myself for who I am.
If I were to be born again, I would not change my ethnicity for the world. To me, my identity represents more than just being mixed-race. It’s also the story of my parents and how they had to deal with the stigma of a White man dating a Black Muslim woman in the 80s and 90s. They had to face quite a lot of backlash at first, from the White Catholic part of the family too. My identity to me is the result of their love and two cultures merging. I would not exist if my mum didn’t leave her country to live on the other side of the planet to secure a better future for her and her siblings. I think that’s extraordinary.
When I moved in London is when I met the most mixed-race people. In the future, it’s probably going to become the norm and having just one race would become an oddity even.