Scottish/Italian | Nigerian
I identify as Nigerian, Scottish & Italian. I am Atheist & heterosexual. My Father is from Nigeria and my Mother is from Scotland (Glasgow), however, her grandparents were Italian immigrants and part of a large Italian diaspora in Scotland that had emigrated over in the late 19th and early 20th century. My Father being academically brilliant, won a scholarship to study at the top boys boarding school in Nigeria and on excelling there, he won another scholarship to study at a university in the UK. Intending to study naval architecture, he chose Glasgow University which of course was one of the centers for this industry. My Mum and Dad met at a student house party in Glasgow. My mother would have been around 18 and my father 22.
When I was very young, I spent some time in Glasgow, some in London, however, the vast majority of my growing up was in Cambridge. It’s difficult to confidently say, however I think I became aware I was mixed-race in Cambridge, probably around the age of 6. That’s as far back as I can remember, however, it’s possible I was aware before that, but I just don’t have any recollection.
There were synergies between my parents’ cultures in that they both had come from extremely religious families. I guess from my perspective the thing that I could attach to culture was food for the most part. When I think about culture, I can see the beauty of it in that it can be a narrative comprised of a number of elements over a long period of time to create a rich and wonderful tapestry that defines a people and the places they’re from and have grown in and with. However, I also think these very elements of culture can be exclusive too, the prohibitive bit, like a member’s club. If you can acknowledge and respect but also look beyond culture, there’s a lot of humanity in that. I would say that my parents probably transcended culture and I could only ever see them as equally loving and caring people with the same virtuous values. Which is probably why I always come back to food on this question, my Mum would cook lots of Italian as well as Nigerian dishes she’d been taught by my Dad, she’s also experiment with cooking delicious food from around the globe, Indian, Lebanese, French etc. My Dad would cook Nigerian dishes too, but was also curious and would often cook goulashes, coq au vins, Provencal’s. However, my strongest connections to each of their cultures would probably be the food element.
Asides from this, growing up my parents did things with us that were really varied. Every weekend or holiday was full. They’d take my brother and I camping, to museums, national trust sites, fossil hunting, sheep dog trials (bit odd), bird watching, country fetes, Nigerian events, Italian events, events. I guess in short, they met as two people and fell in love and that ultimately transcended anything.
Growing up in Cambridge and being mixed-race was quite a unique experience. At primary school, most people were White and there were a couple of Black people, but my brother and I were the only Black/White mixed-race people. I experienced being treated unfairly or differently by teachers on occasion and at times my parents would have to step in on behalf of me or my brother in these situations. I’ve experienced racist jibes here and there throughout life, however, that’s one of the things you become accustomed to. Truthfully, I was pretty popular at school, but there was for me definitely a sense that I was different.
I would say that my environment is entirely mixed as is my social circle, that’s in regard to race, class, sexuality etc. In terms of partners, who I’ve dated is always based on intelligence, attraction and shared values. I think these things can transcend race, however, it is important for my partner to also acknowledge that I am mixed race and that ultimately will also have had an impact on my experiences in life and who I am etc. My partner is White, and I really like that he asks me questions about my perspective on life, I like that he understands or tries to understand things. I think him acknowledging that I’m mixed-race and also being interested in what that means is great. But saying that, I’ll return to my point about transcending, and we do that ultimately, we’re two people that love each other.
Being mixed-race I believe has given me a unique insight into things, a duality that enables me to access things that being black or white may not. Yet in the same vein, I think it’s been confusing at points. I guess the thing that you’re always balancing is people’s perception. Often people have preconceived ideas of what they would expect from me as a mixed-race woman, there’s frequently surprise at how ‘well spoken’ I am for example (from both Black & White people). There’s sometimes an expectation from White counterparts that I may be underprivileged and less educated and come from a difficult background. I think when I was younger, I felt more acutely aware of being different, but that’s because I was, so it makes sense, however, as time goes on I feel it less and less. London is really multicultural and it’s hard to feel different or excluded here, however, saying that I am always vastly in the minority in any working environment I’ve been in. But that doesn’t simply apply to mixed-race people, that’s Black, Asians etc, there’s still not enough diversity in the city.
When I engage with people, often those stereotypes are I guess there’s so many elements at play there, the UK is such a nuanced society. It’s also very much stratified along the line of class, so there’s a definite intersection that respect too.
I don’t speak any other languages. I think with regard to my Italian side, it’s quite sad and is a major disconnect between me and that culture, but I can still cook the food, which makes me endlessly happy.
When asked where I’m from I would say, what do you mean, do you mean what mix am I or where do I live? Then I answer depending on what they say.
I love being who I am, I love being mixed race, I love the races and cultures I’m comprised of, I love this country and having grown up here. So it’s all positive! When I look around, I do often think it’s probably just becoming a very normal part of society, in London at least. It seems like so many people are mixed or they’re in mixed relationships.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would return exactly as I am, the same mix and upbringing.