English | Nigerian
I am half English & half Nigerian, I am agnostic. My Mum comes from Nigeria and my Dad comes from England. They met in England at a pool apparently. I was always something my Mum had talked about since I was small. I grew up in England, but my mum always had artwork from Nigeria around the house and often cooked Nigerian food so being from 2 different backgrounds had always been part of my life.
I grew up in London which is quite diverse. I had a few mixed-race friends at school and much of my year was from different ethnic backgrounds so being proud of where you were from was a big part of my life growing up. I am not really sure how my parents combined their cultures. I think my Mum got very involved in English culture so there wasn’t a massive culture clash. My Dad always enjoyed Nigerian food and wearing traditional clothing for Nigerian weddings so from my perspective they both embraced the others’ culture.
I have found it hard how people choose to identify me. I find because of the way I was brought up, people have said that I’m basically White or have been in the room when someone has said something racist and assumed it wouldn’t bother me because I’m half White. It’s hard to navigate predominantly white spaces when there’s the fear that someone will say something offensive. I don’t think my environment plays a part in how I choose my friends/partners.
My culture does affect the way I connect with my hair. I find I am often in battle between wanting to let my hair be out and down how it naturally or making sure it’s neat and out of the way. Because of my British side and where I grew up, curly hair wasn’t the normal and I went through a stage of always straightening it. Now I’m proud of my curls, but not as proud as I would like to be. I wish I had the confidence to wear it down more.
A positive for me is that I get to enjoy the food that my Mother cooks from Nigeria. Fried plantain and jollof rice, which is something growing up in this country I might have otherwise not had.
Being mixed-race definitely affects the way I blend into society. In London it isn’t an issue, but in places outside of London there tend to be less people of colour so I’m always conscious of people treating me differently because of it. Since being at university, there have been some comments that have made me feel isolated from my peers, such as saying my hair looked ‘different’. This wasn’t really something that ever been said to me before coming to university. These kinds of comments make you feel othered and more away of how other people see you as an outsider.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would like to return as a pampered animal such as a cat, so I wouldn’t have to do anything except eat and nap.
I went to a grammar school where a lot of people when to Oxford and I had heard Oxford was just an extension of my school experience, which meant I had a bad perception of Oxford. My heritage didn’t really factor into my decision to attend. I have experienced casual racism at Oxford. It seems to be every week something crops up where a peer or staff member has behaved in a way I would deep racist. It is quite appalling. I think Oxford can be welcoming and inclusive with the right friends, but as an overall student body I don’t think this is the case.
My experiences at Oxford has made me way more aware of the negative connotations of being not white in the UK, not specifically mixed heritage. I didn’t really know how racist the world was until coming to Oxford. Things that had happened to me lead me to reading more articles and watching documentaries about institutionalized racism, which did cause me a lot of distress. This was very different to the environment I grew up in where being from different places was celebrated.
Being a part of Oxford’s Mixed Heritage Society has been lots of fun and I have made some friends. It is wonderful knowing that there’s a group of people who are able to understand what I could be going through and sharing interesting articles/ideas about being mixed currently in the UK has been excellent.
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.