Indian | Bajan
I identify as a straight mixed-race woman. My mother is Indian but born in the UK. My dad was born in Barbados. They met in London. I’ve grown up and lived in South London my whole life, which is incredibly multi-cultural.
I’ve always been aware of my mixed-race heritage, and particularly the fact that my mix is unusual. I reckon that’s because my whole life, I’ve had strangers ask where I’m from. It’s rare for people to be able to guess just from looking at me. I wouldn’t say my parents actively made an effort to combine cultures. I suppose because neither are closely tied to their heritage either. I’d say the way it naturally manifested itself in our family home was through cooking. I love to cook, so do my parents and my grandparents. Both cultures are full of so much flavour!
One thing that still bugs me, is being called a ‘coconut’. Don’t get me wrong, I see it’s just a joke and even my mum called me this as a child! What people are projecting on me when they say it, is that I’m not acting how they expect based on how I look, and I think that makes people feel awkward. I don’t think I act stereotypically White either, I’m just comfortable in my skin.
My school was a very multicultural environment, but still you noticed kids typically hanging with people of the same heritage. It’s a little tricky when you’re mixed-race however, cos there’s not many of us! I look more Black, but randomly found myself hanging with a lot of Asian kids. Maybe that’s because my mum had a lot of Black friends so I’m trying to balance it out!
As I’ve grown older, the race of my friends and partners have varied hugely, and I love this. I hate the idea that I’ve missed an opportunity of a connection or love because I felt my race has limited my choices. I don’t think being mixed-race has had an effect on my work/personal life. I’ve been very lucky! Perhaps that’s why I’ve never left London.
From my experience, people project their stereotypes onto you, based on how you look. To most people, I look more Black, so they expect me to act in a particular way based on that, and often seem a little surprised when I speak and act quite differently.
My mother’s family can speak Punjabi, but unfortunately, I cannot. I think that was a missed opportunity, but also a reflection of the fact we were very disconnected from that side of the family. If things were different, I probably would have picked it up naturally as a child.
I wouldn’t say I feel very connected to my Caribbean roots, but I certainly feel less connected to the Indian side. I guess part of that is due to family tensions with the interracial relationship my parents had, so I didn’t meet much of my mother’s side of the family until I was a teenager. When I was at family functions, I felt more like I was an outside guest, rather than part of the family. It’s funny that how you look can play such a big part in those instant connections you make, or don’t make.
If I’m asked where I’m from, I know from experience that 99% of the time they are asking my heritage. I also know people are scared of asking this question in the wrong way, or not knowing whether it’s ok to ask at all. So, I make it as easy as possible and detail the ethnicity of my parents. I love that someone can just look at my face and be intrigued about me, so I’m always positive towards these questions.
I feel like I am an equal mix of two ethnicities, but unfortunately society seems to focus more on the missing part. I can’t say ‘I’m Indian’ or ‘I’m Black’ without someone correcting that I’m only half. On the plus side, my parent’s differing backgrounds has taught me that you really can break society's norms and go with your heart. Love is love.
When I was younger, there weren’t many mixed-race people, and if you said you was mixed-race, it was assumed your mother was White, and father was Black. Whereas today, being mixed-race feels a little more typical now, and people are getting more used to a variety of mixes.
If you asked me 3 years ago, how I would have like to be born again, it would have said ‘me but with better hair!’. However, I’m learning to love my natural afro now, so I would come back exactly as I am.