I'm a mixed-race woman from south London, born and bred. I am of Russian, Indian and Caribbean descent. My mum is mixed-race, with her mum being Russian and Caribbean, and her dad being Indian, from the East Indies. My dad is White. Though I do not know much about him, my mum has spoken of him possibly having Spanish & Romanian heritage his side of the family due to the particular features his parents had. It’s quite fitting considering when I was growing up, everyone did think I was Spanish or some sort from those particular areas.
With my Russian heritage, that comes from my late great-grandmother, I was told when growing up that I was in fact Jewish by blood (the faith is passed down maternally, mother to daughter), though I do not practice the faith itself. I am more of a spiritual believer. I'll be the one who will wear the Hand of Fatima necklaces and burn a thousand incenses just to ward off any negative energy I feel I am carrying. However, funnily enough, a lot of what I believe and practice in are in fact to the teachings of the three predominant Faiths. For example, Hand of Fatima is used as a symbol of protection from evil that were predominantly believed and used by Jews and Muslims in Ancient Egypt.
I am open to the ideologies of Faith and Religion, and what they also represent to the people and the world, but I won't be the one who will personally go out of their way to go to Church every Sunday to have a person preach to me about what I should believe in. A person is entitled to their own way of believing in something or someone, whatever that may be. When it's force fed to you however, that's when it becomes a very serious problem.
Both my parents are British, and were born here in the U.K. My mum is originally from Manchester and was born in Northern England during the 60's. My dad is from London and was born late 50s, early 60s. Since I don't know my dad, I can't say much about what his childhood was like.
My mum told me that for the first nine years of her life she grew up in a home in Wales due to my nan and granddad having her quite young. My mum said that when my nan took her from the home in Wales and back up to Manchester, she lived down a street where it was only them and another couple of Black families. Inter-racial relationships during the 60s and 70s were still taboo, but it was occurring rapidly. My mum said that my late great-grandmother faced a lot of prejudice from society. As she was of a Jewish background, she was expected to follow the Jewish tradition. It didn't happen. My late great-grandmother fell in love with a Black man and went completely against her faith to be with the one she loved. My late great-grandmother raised six children in Northern England on her own during a time where everything was very conservative. I have a lot to thank my late great-grandmother for. She followed her heart, and I think that's where I get it from because I always follow my heart in everything I do. Even if the finale of it might not give me complete satisfaction, I always follow my heart and I always learn from it.
My parents met in Croydon, south London, in a shop where my mum worked. Growing up, I have asked her questions about my dad, but it was always approached with trepidation because I genuinely believed, and still do in fact, that my mum truly loved my dad and when she fell pregnant with me, and he didn't stay and take on the responsibility of being a father seriously, it upset her deeply. My mum raised me on her own and has gone through a lot. We do have a complex mother and daughter relationship, but she is still my mum and I'm grateful for all that she tried to provide for me.
I was born in south Croydon and raised near Crystal Palace. I am a south London woman through and through. I went to school and college in the Croydon area, and eventually went to The University of west London to study my degree. But to speak about my experiences and memories of growing up in south London, they have all played a part into who I am today. Experiences of hanging out with friends in Croydon, Thornton Heath, Crystal Palace, Peckham, Brixton, Camberwell & Elephant and Castle are all still very vivid. Growing up in a multicultural area meant that I didn't always feel like a pariah with my race. Though there would be times of course when people wanted to be ignorant and question my race, my identity and ask, ‘how does it work with you being fair when your mum is mixed-race?’. Questions like that would often leave lasting effects on me. It was difficult at times because it saddened me that in a time where society is seeing the shift in inter-racial relationships, society is also not progressing by not allowing themselves to understand the etymology of what it means to be mixed-race.
I was very aware I was mixed-race from young. I would look at my mum, then look at me and go ‘Okay, she's darker than me but I know she's my mum’. Walking down the street with my mum was okay, normal almost. I would only begin to question now and again when I was younger about my ethnicity when people would walk past the both of us, stare with beading eyes as though something was wrong. My mum and I often had these discussions about how much it would annoy us the looks people would give us, but because we've become so immune to it now, it doesn't bother us as much.
We are all part of something greater than us, so if we're too busy defining ourselves with labels, how are we meant to progress? I have many friends and acquaintances who are mixed-race, LGBT, disabled, and it's fine with me. I respect them for who they are, not what they are. I would like to believe the same is reciprocated.
Race and culture don't play a role in my decision when choosing a partner now, though when I was younger, it did. When I was 16 to about the age of 23, 24 years old, I would only really like or date men who were Black or mixed-race. It was like an affiliation with them because I was mixed-race too and I thought ‘Well what would a White man know about me and my race?’, and then I realised that actually falling into stereotypes like that isn't healthy. If you allow yourself to be in a safety net, whatever that net is, you won't know about risk-tasking. I've taken many risks in my life so far and the people I have been intimate with have understood where I come from and who I am. Fast forward to now, before I become another person's lover, I am currently enjoying being my own. More importantly, I'm enjoying the role of being a mother to my son, who too is mixed-race.
The etymology of being mixed-race is so broad now, whereas before, it might not have been. It would have just been Black and White, and that's it. When you take into account, Faith, Religion, demographic of a person or people, that is when you can begin to understand the hierarchy of race. It does exist, and there is no denying that. The lighter you are, the more accepting into society you will become. But then at the same time, we are seeing what I like to call ‘The mixed-race rebel movement’, which means that society is finally listening to us. Society is realising that inter-racial relationships are on the increase. Universities like Oxford and Cambridge this year alone have had a sharp rise of applicants and they were either from Black or mixed ethnic backgrounds. We should never limit ourselves because we are mixed-race. Society shouldn't be afraid to address issues like colourism for example that exist within mixed ethnicities and what they can do to dismantle that. The more we question, the more we debate, and the more we debate, the more forward we can go. I don't really want to be seen as ‘racially ambiguous’ any more. I simply want to be seen and accepted as me because there is no other me.
The racially ambiguous flag always flew up when I was growing up. On face value, I look fair, but with my dark hair and eyes, and even the shape of my nose, people over the years could tell I wasn't White. It was hard trying to find myself in society because there was so much of my heritage I needed to learn, and I am still learning to this very day. I have been called ‘quarter caste’ and many other horrific names. But that's a part of society that will never go forward because they're scared of seeing the sharp increase of something that they know they can't actually control. We are all going through this big shift at the moment. Politically, socially, economically. Everything is changing. For every negative, there is a positive. But there is no denying that it's hard to find a balance in all of this. I have had more positive experiences of being mixed-race than negative. That's not to say I'm one of the lucky ones. I do notice a shift of energy within people when I tell them I'm not White. It can be quite humorous at times from my point of view because essentially, it's the saddest thing to see that there are certain individuals out there who are set in this inbuilt programming of racial hatred, whether they act upon it or not.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I would come back as myself. Through and through. There is only one me.
The future of mixed-race is here and now. We're a strong movement. Parts of society are ridged in their teachings, so for us to continue and grow, we need to not focus on those teachings too heavily. We do need to accept that they are there and that they exist. But with the rise of inter-racial relationships, poor teachings like that will probably be so redundant in our eyes. I say to society embrace the mixed-race because we're not going anywhere.