English | Hong Kong Chinese
I identify as mixed-race British and Chinese, Catholic & heterosexual. My Father is from Hong Kong and my Mother from England. They met in Hong Kong when my Mother was out there working for the textile industry. My parents got divorced when I was four and I lived with my Mum, I started to realise at young age that I was mixed-race as people would look at me when it was just me and her, asking if I was adopted. Before my parents split, I lived in central Manchester which is really diverse but after the divorce we moved to a small Lancashire town and I was one of the only non-White pupils in both primary and high school. At first, I found my mixed heritage hard to identify with as I saw myself as no different from my White friends but as I got older, I grew prouder of my heritage and saw it as a good thing rather than something to dismiss. I still see my Father often and he teaches me how to cook Chinese dishes and tells me how my family are doing in Hong Kong but, unfortunately, he never taught me to speak Cantonese. I feel as though I identify much more with my English heritage as I was born here and have never lived anywhere else.
I’ve never really suffered from much racism although when I was on a school trip, a group of boys from the neighbouring high school came over and said I had a ‘chinky face’. It didn’t really make me that upset that they’d used a racial slur, what frustrates me more, and still does to this day, is that people always see the Chinese in me, probably because I look more Chinese than English. Even though I speak fluent English (with a northern accent) and dress very Western. They always ask, ‘where are you from?’ thinking that, because I’m not White, I’m most likely not British and was born somewhere else. I think in more diverse places, this is less likely to happen as there are more second and third generation immigrant families, but in my town and area, it’s mostly English middle-class White people.
I’ve only recently realised that most of my closest friends are mixed-race too. It’s unconsciously happened, I think, and may be in response to the largely White environment I grew up in, but I suppose we all socialise with people with whom we have things in common and for me, mixed-race is one of those things.
I am very biased when it comes to food. I much prefer Chinese cuisine to English but I think a lot of people would agree, regardless of whether they were half Chinese or not. I don’t really like Chinese music although I have dabbled in a bit of Chinese rap and I loved the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack, and K-pop’s not for me either. As mentioned previously, I can’t speak Cantonese so am unable to connect with language from a bilingual perspective and I dress much more Western. I don’t style my hair in any particular fashion, just what’s easiest for me.
When I was younger I tended to dismiss my mixed heritage, so I suppose the positive experiences directly linked to being mixed-race have happened over the last couple years. One that stands out the most is probably the first mixer for Oxford Mixed Heritage Society in first term. I found a group of people who all understood certain things and could relate to my experience that I’d never had before. We all laughed at how often we got asked where we’re from and a lot of us have popular surnames (Wong, Gonzalez, Kim) so were used to being asked if you knew a John Wong that lived in the city nearby.
I didn’t look up percentages or numbers of mixed heritage people before I arrived at Oxford and, to be honest, it wasn’t really that much of a factor. I know a lot of my friends from London were quite shocked by the lack of diversity and I agree that it is a real issue that needs to be worked on but coming from a town in Lancashire, the lack of non-White people at university felt like a continued norm. I certainly don’t just accept it, I am as frustrated by it as I am at home, but it didn’t feel alien. Oxford Mixed Heritage Society is a great community especially because it is so inclusive. For example, I was thinking of joining the Hong Kong society, but I was worried I wasn’t ‘Chinese enough’. I can’t speak the language, have never even been to Hong Kong, it seemed I would be an intrusion into a group with which I couldn’t fully identify. At OMHS, however, no one judges you if you’re Chinese or English enough, it’s a space for all races and cultures. It’s so inclusive also because everyone is mixed heritage in that they have multiple ethnicities in their ancestral background, and I think OMHS really stress their openness to anyone and everyone which is really great.
One of the things I have real issue with is BAME. Not only does it group all non-White people into the same bracket suggesting we’re more similar to each other than we are to White people, it prioritises Black and Asians, failing to recognise the diversity within the ‘non-White’ group. Thus, being in the BAME category does not make me feel represented within Oxford’s racial discourse.
When I was younger, I definitely wanted to be White, just so people would stop looking at me and asking if I was adopted. But now, if I could be born again I’d want to be mixed-race as, although I don’t completely have the best of both worlds, I feel as though it has enriched my life for the better.
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.