British | Nigerian/British
I identify as British mixed race (Nigerian and British), Christian and heterosexual. My Mum is mixed Nigerian and White British and my Dad is White British. They met at uni. My Mum is also mixed. My maternal Grandfather was from Nigeria and first came to London in 1961 where he met my Grandmother who was White British and had grown up in East London. I am not totally sure how they met but I think it might have been at a party at the Nigerian high commission.
I don’t really remember recognising that I was mixed-race. I was aware that my Grandfather was from Nigeria from a very young age and that I was a quarter Nigerian but there is no stand out moment of me realising I was mixed. I grew up Gloucestershire and went to school in south Wales. There were not many people of similar heritage to me. Looking back, I realise that I experienced events that I would now consider as casual racism but at the time I was too young to understand or didn’t see it as racism as things like that were not really discussed. This led me to not actively try to discuss my race or heritage growing up as I was keen to fit in and not be seen as different.
Both my parents were raised in White-British households, so they are culturally very similar. We don’t do anything that culturally Nigerian at home. My Mum makes a version of Jollof rice but that is about it.
I have never felt confused internally over my heritage. There seems to be this idea that mixed-race people will always feel in-between but personally I have never felt this. Most challenges come from external sources such as casual racism and the ignorance of others.
I think like most people I am drawn to people who have things in common with me. Coming to Oxford has widened my social circle and I have many more friends from different backgrounds and with different life experiences and outlooks.
Culturally I have grown up in a White-British household. I do worry about my hair being messy and never lying as neat as I would like it; I have permanent flyways. I remember when I was younger my Mum would have to spend about an hour smoothing it into a bun for ballet exams and occasionally teachers would make comments that it did not always look smart enough for school. I have a different hair texture to both my parents, and it took me a long time to work out how to style my hair. Having curly hair can be strange, only very recently have I started seeing naturally curly hair in magazines and products designed for curly hair easily available to buy. People often comment that love my hair but also, I get asked a lot if I have tried straightening it. I have never heard someone with straight hair being asked if they have tried curling it. I never really think that people see as being mixed-race as I am quite light skinned, and my hair is western textured, people mainly think I have Mediterranean heritage. If I am with my parents, I think people see me different racially if I am just with one of my parents.
I have lots of positive experiences from being mixed-race. The biggest one for me is the starting of OMHS with Alyssa and creating something that has the potential to benefit so many people and widen the conversation about mixed heritage identity which I don’t think has been fully explored yet. It is exciting to be the part of the first society of this type at any UK university and create something I feel passionate about. I had 2 cousins who had both been to Oxford, so had an idea of what it was going to be like in general. My heritage had no factor in my decision to apply to Oxford. I have experienced a little of racism at Oxford, but I experienced more growing up. Oxford has more racial diversity than the environment I grew up. For example, I was regularly mistaken for another mixed-race girl in my year at school, maybe once a week but I have not found that as much at Oxford. I think Oxford is trying to be welcoming and inclusive environment. I don’t think it always manages to achieve this though. I think that this often comes from ignorance and not considering that people may have had different life experiences. I have found that I feel more comfortable discussing my identity at Oxford as there are far more people with a similar heritage here than when I was growing up. I have met people at Oxford who have a very similar heritage to me (1 Black Grandparent, 3 White Grandparents), this was something that I had never experienced before except with my cousins. I have never felt uncomfortable in Oxford due to my race, but I am quite White passing. I do think it is important that OMHS represents the diversity of the mixed heritage students and showcases this, though projects such as this one.
We started Oxford Mixed Heritage Society to create a community for mixed heritage students and increase discourse of mixed heritage identity coming from people of mixed heritage. We are a very new society and that comes with challenges, but it is exciting to be part of something that has so much potential. On a more personal note, starting the society has allowed me to meet lots of people I might not have met otherwise.
In the context of the University of Oxford, we hope our names; faces and stories will emphasise that there is a place for everyone at Oxford. According to last year’s admissions data, 700 Oxford undergraduates identify as mixed. In 2016, BAME students accounted for 15.9% of the undergraduate intake. Oxford is diversifying, albeit slowly. We hope to empower mixed heritage students at Oxford and foster a community where they can safely share their own opinions, experiences and stories.