English | Turkish

I am half English (with a bit Welsh) and Half Turkish. My family is very mixed and from multiple religions: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. So as a consequence I believe in a higher source but not in organised religion. Each faith leads to love and compassion and for me, not to restrictions and rules. Mum is English and Dad is Turkish. They met working in a salon on Berkeley Square in the late 1960’s. Dad was one of the first Turks to come to London, he moved from his village in the mountains to Istanbul to work when he was 11 and did well there and then came to London as it was the swinging sixties and he wanted to see it.

I grew up on a council estate called South Oxhey where they bought a salon which had a flat (about to be knocked down). My parents bought it after meeting at the salon on Berkeley Square, it still to me makes no sense. Yes, we stuck out. Dad bought an E-Type Jaguar when I was 7, rather than a house. We drove to Turkey in it, very hot in August, red leather seats. In Germany they thought we were the Baader Meinhof gang and the police chased us, they got a bit of a shock when they saw me waving cuddling a teddy bear and Mum listening to Rod Stewart.

I recognized I was mixed-race at the age of 5. I am a product of both of my parents. They are very open-minded. I have the respect and ayip code drilled into me, plus I take my shoes off in every house I go to; but also my Mother is a feminist and that along with my Father’s secular thinking is a part of the mix of my identities. We are all multiple identities and these shift with time, engagement and situations. Being mixed is a river which runs through every vein, every atom.

The NF used to march and would graffiti our salon in the area I grew up in. I was racially attacked by a boy who had been groomed by the NF and had copies of Bulldog comic which he thought was hilarious and yes witnessed racial prejudice on a regular basis. I used to think of the posters by the NF where exactly did they want me to be repatriated to as I was born in Enfield and why did these people who marched then see no contradiction in eating at the Greek Cypriot owned Wimpy or having their hair done by my Dad. The context of Brexit and the amplified language I have seen since 2016, plus global populism, has brought this division back into focus again; hence why this project is such a great idea, well done!

My native language is English, I have a degree in English from UCL, I think I speak it pretty well! I swear in both and I understand the codes and mores of both fluently, but I am not fluent in Turkish. When asked where I’m from I say I am from Watford, where are you from? Then they say ‘no where are you really from’, and I say I am really from Watford and my Mum is from Enfield, my Dad is Turkish. ‘Aah’ they say, ‘so you are Turkish’. ‘No’, I reply ‘I am half Turkish, my Mum is called Marilyn’.

A positive of my mixed identity is that we have a compassion for those who have been othered and we often have to work out what things mean to us, as we do not fit into one racial identity, so it can be a shifting narrative, but it allows us scope to dig deep.

I think being mixed-race is harder again, than it was in the noughties, sadly. We need a rise in intersectional thinking and a commitment to break down the paradigms which hold back so many from multiple backgrounds. Immigration has been great for the UK economy (and arguably its restaurants) and should be celebrated not excused. The hostile environment has seen an escalation in a lack of compassion, as has the refugee crisis, when in reality many of those who are fleeing wars would be an asset to the UK if they were allowed to integrate and use their skills and education to boost the UK economy. Immigrants are not a drain on the UK’s finances, they put far more in than they take in benefits and this story should be honored.

If I had the opportunity to be re-incarnated, I would come back as someone who like me had access to free university education and then I would try to ensure that others like me have these opportunities as well.