Dutch | Surinamese
I identify as Surinamese (native Indian & creole) and Dutch. I am a spiritual heterosexual human being. My Mother was born and raised in Paramaribo, Surinam and came to Holland in her early 20’s. My Dad was born and raised in Holland. I recognised I was being mixed-race at a young age, I guess during the time I went to primary school. I was not dark-skinned as my Mother, but I also was not White as my Father either. Kids in my classes were curious when they saw my Mum or Dad and would ask me about my background.
I grew up in different cities. Thankfully those were places where I was not the only coloured kid. During primary school I had many female friends of different heritages. My parents managed to combine both cultures. They raised me with the Dutch & Surinamese etiquette (For example: sit up straight, do not lend your elbows on the table and addressing elderly people with ‘U’). My Mum always made sure that my little sister and I were aware of both sides of our cultures. If you are born and raised in The Netherlands, you will obviously blend in the Dutch culture and manners. But she also made sure that I learned a lot about the Afro-Surinamese culture and be proud of the Black part in me. I was never allowed to straighten my hair, even though there was a time I wanted to straight my hair because almost nobody worn their hair naturally.
As I grew older, I have definitely experienced challenges in my life based around my mixed identity. Humans have a built-in tendency to want to belong in groups. There was a period in my teen years where I was struggling whether I was Black or White enough to fit in. You’re actually neither one thing or the other while simultaneously being both. There was this one time where a White girl in the group would ask me if I had stuck my finger in the electrical outlet because of the volume of my hair and everyone laughed. I would laugh it away, but deep down it really offended me. I have also experienced colourism in the Black community. I remember hanging out with two friends of darker complexions mentioning most Black brothers would prefer lighter skinned women with curly hair like me over dark-skinned females. It was something they could relate together and although I tried to convince them there are undeniably Black men who prefer darker-skinned women, the situation got me feeling a bit like an outsider. I also felt embarrassed, because I absolutely despise Black men who put down darker-skinned women.
I grew up in multicultural cities, so my environment did not play a part in how I choose my friends. I really value loyalty, having a good laugh and good vibes. If someone has that good/positive energy, I will vibe with that person automatically. My man happens to be of mixed-race as well, so it’s really nice to have a partner who understands and can relate to my stories and challenges.
My cultures have affected the way I connect with food, music, language and fashion. I will say it loud & proudly; Surinamese food is seriously one of the best foods in the world. It has all kinds of influences from different cultures like Creole, Indonesian, Chinese and Hindustani. But the White part in me loves the Dutch food as well. Like I said, I’m a sucker for ‘stamppot’ and also haring (a small oily silvery-colored typical Dutch fish). My Mum used to play the old-school R&B songs back in the days and I think my music taste has stuck in the 90’s/ 00’s music area. Furthermore, I also love Zouk, Soca, Latin and some Dutch singers as well, like Marco Borsato. I speak fluently Dutch and understand the Surinamese language, but I can only talk a few Surinamese sentences. Back in the days, it wasn’t common for my Mum to talk back in Surinamese to her parents when she was younger, because it was considered ‘rude’. So I think that played a role of me not talking back in Surinamese either.
Being mixed-race has taught me so much about accepting two different cultures. Although I stand by my personal beliefs and ethics, I try to remain open to seeing the truth in what others think. I take on the role of an explorer and allow myself to be fascinated by how the unique configuration of a person’s personal traits, family background, culture, schooling, and life experiences shapes their unique perspective. Eventually it gives you a more open mind about understanding and accepting all cultures and differences. And even though I have experienced some challenges around my identity, I also receive great compliments from many people of different cultures!
If I were to be born again, I would return as the same person I am today because my identity is a part that makes me ME. I think as a young Surinamese/Dutch woman, it is very important to never bury what is left for me but rather water it for the next generations.