English/Scottish | Jamaican
I identify as mixed-race, atheist, and straight. My parents met in their early twenties, and bonded because they both loved the same music and were going to all the same club events. I’m mixed English, Scottish, and Jamaican. My Mum is half English and Scottish, my Dad’s father is Jamaican and Mother I’m not 100% certain. He grew up with adopted parents, so there’s some missing links in the family tree.
For the first decade of my life my race was not something I really acknowledged, that only started when I hit high school. When I was a toddler my hair was fair and my curl pattern was loose, that started to change when I was about twelve. I grew up in a very White city and wasn’t really exposed to many other cultures, races or even nationalities as a youngster. I was aware my hair and features were different and for a long time I really resented that. When I was 15 I cut huge chunks of my hair out at the root because I thought it was too thick and I didn’t want to deal with it anymore, older girls would make rude remarks at school and I remember this being off the back of one of those incidents.
There was a real lack of diversity where I lived as a child, which meant thinking about my own identity and how I choose to identify myself was something I didn’t think properly about until I was in my teens. I lived there until I was 18 and left for university, it was only then when I moved to somewhere much more diverse I realised there had been some feelings of isolation growing up there. I think it’s really important for people of colour to live in environments where they see themselves represented.
It never felt like there was a big struggle to balance or combine culture. Down to my environment I would say I’ve had quite a British upbringing, whatever being British even means. But I think being mixed you’re going to have influences from both sides and that’s inevitable. My main ties to Jamaican culture were always through my Dad’s sister. She was always playing the music and cooking Caribbean food whenever I’d go visit. She introduced me to all of it, would tell me what to buy for my hair, and growing up was a significant person in my life for this. Even down to how her house smells when she’s cooking gives me such a strong feeling of being connected to my heritage and fills me with pride and warmth. Their side of the family is huge so I have extended family all over the UK, lots in the US and in Jamaica too, but my Aunt has definitely been my main connection to culture.
I used to really struggle with identity and what that means, and I think there’s elements of that I’m still exploring now. In regards to my race it sometimes feels like I’m both and neither at the same time, stuck in a place of not being able to identify as ‘fully’ anything. But the way I’m learning to see it as I’m made up of different parts that come together to make a whole. When I was a kid I did feel a big disconnect to my Dad’s side where my Jamaican roots lie, and I think that was something I was always curious to explore. It’s driven me to dig deeper into understanding and exploring my background more. I travelled around Jamaica a few years ago, which I definitely think was an important thing for me to have done. There are aspects of both sides of my family and heritage that I can identify with and that in itself is what identity means to me.
I naturally surround myself with a really diverse group of friends. I think this is something I value and truly appreciate now more than ever. I don’t know how much of an affect my mixed-raceness has on my dating life or preferences. I have dated a mix of guys who have all looked very different and been from different backgrounds, so I don’t think I have a strong racial preference.
I definitely feel proud to be mixed. At 25 I feel comfortable now in my appearance and within myself, which is a good feeling. The main positive is being content with the fact that I’m made up of different nationalities. Different bits & pieces but most importantly they come together and make a whole. My experience of being mixed is much more positive as an adult, but that’s likely down to environment and spaces too. One real positive experience is meeting other mixed-race people and realising you have so many experiences and feelings that are aligned. Having those conversations and realising how you are similar and can relate to each other is so great. One negative is dealing with expectations of you. Expectations that you should behave a certain way or like certain things. I think the expectation to have a full understanding of all aspects of your cultures and background is something I have felt a lot. I’ve found once I accepted people will always have expectations and carry their own prejudices, it’s been easier to navigate in society because you’re never going to be able to live up to them all, and you don’t need to. So much prejudice comes from conditioning and that’s their problem to fix not yours.
I think being mixed does affect the way you blend in. People are always trying to reach out and touch my hair, and it’s a standard part of life as I’m sure it is for so many people of colour living in the UK. You’re often being put in positions where you’re faced with questions about your culture, race, or nationality, and for this reason it’s hard to blend in completely. People will always feel entitled to ask those questions and entitled to get the answers too. I think the best anyone can do is position ourselves in spaces where we feel comfortable, and we feel represented, and can really succeed.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I would still always absolutely come back as myself. It would have been great to have the knowledge and acceptance I have now back then, but at the same time the experience was a huge learning curve. It took time and was a process, and I’m thankful for that experience.