British/Indian | English

Zack R.jpg

I’m a 44-year-old man and I am mixed race.  I have been in a happy relationship with my partner Andy for 19 years. I have 3 sisters and two brothers. The eldest brother and sisters have a different father from me.

My mother, now deceased, was born in Manchester in 1935. Her father was a boxer and her mum was a housewife.

My father, also deceased, was born in 1922 in Sialkot, then in British India, now in Pakistan. I know little to nothing about his family. He had a wife and children, who he left behind in Pakistan.

My father came to the UK in the 1960s. Amongst the many jobs he had, he was once a bus conductor in Manchester. My mum was a frequent passenger on his bus, so this is where they met and began their friendship.

I was born 1973 in Dagenham, Essex. During the 70’s and early 80’s, Dagenham was predominantly white, with very few people of color and not really diverse at all.

At the time, we endured quite a lot of racism. During that period, the National Front was becoming popular. Immigrants were an easy target to blame the country’s ills on. It saddens me that nothing really changes.

We found it difficult to be accepted by the white community as my parents were thought of badly because they had a mixed relationship. At school, I was really embarrassed to be mixed race, as it invited problems.   My eldest brother and sisters had left home by the time we decided to move away from Dagenham. In 1981, we moved to Burnley, in the north of England.

My father stayed in Dagenham, as he had a few months work to complete at the Post Office before he could take retirement.

We moved to my brother’s home during a particularly cold winter. Their home was a two up, two down with no bathroom, no hot running water or inside toilet. My brother’s family consisted of him, his wife and his four stepchildren. With my mum, my brother and sister, we made up 10 people. Oh, and two dogs.  Living there was very difficult, and it’s the first time I had ever experienced hunger and bitter cold.

Whilst we lived there, I went to a Church of England primary school. I had a broad Dagenham accent and was teased for this. But, it was in good nature.

After a while, the situation at my brother’s home became unsustainable. We became effectively homeless and lived in rented accommodation. After such a houseful, it was calmer when it was just my brother, sister and I. My mother, who had many issues with her mental health, was also much easier to be with.

My father eventually was about to join us. My mother asked him to buy a house for us, for him to show he was committed to join us. And he did. The house cost £3000. Even in 1982, in Burnley, this wasn’t a lot of money. We moved in, the first time in our lives that we owned something. After doing so, they split up. I don’t really know the reason why, as the stories are too conflicting. I don’t think I’ll ever know either.  I cried so much that I thought I would never get over it; I was 9 at the time.   So my Dad went back to Pakistan to his original wife and children.

In the new part of town where we now lived, Stoneyholme, I was enrolled at a new school.  Stoneyholme was, and still is, a very mixed area. Many of the residents are from Pakistan and Bangladesh. People who came to Burnley and the north of England came to work in cotton. I don’t think I had ever seen so many brown faces, and people who looked like me.

We were never brought up to be religious. I immediately fell into trouble with my new classmates because of this. As I didn’t go to mosque, and that I said that I didn’t believe in God, I was bullied and my sister, who dressed like many young British girls, was considered to be “a loose girl”.

In a horrible role reversal, we started to receive problems from the Asian community.

In high school, I did my best to pass as “white” and didn’t really accomplish this. A few times, I would be called “Paki” and was once beaten up on the way home from school. I was with a friend at the time, who didn’t say anything to defend me. We continued the walk home after a much bigger kid had kicked me to the floor and punched me repeatedly. My friend and I fell both silent and embarrassed. Neither of us spoke about it afterwards, and looking back, I know that he was ashamed and embarrassed, and I was angry that he didn’t help.

Without going into too much, neither of our parents were particularly nice people. In hindsight, I sort of understand that my mother suffered from mental health, and I don’t think my father was well either. They were petty, cruel to us and to each other.

However, one thing they did do was walk hand in hand in defiance of the shit that was heaped on them from racists.

So yes, I have always known I was from a different cultural background. 

As above, I tried making friends from both “communities”. It’s only when I became a young adult, and older, that I was able to properly make friends. My “culture” is not based on race, faith or sexuality. If you are ok with me, we can become friends.

I have only ever dated white people, but this wasn’t a conscious decision. For a number of years, I tried to kid myself, and others that I was straight and had a few girlfriends. When I became true to myself, I had boyfriends. There are not many Asian/mixed race men who are out so the chances of meeting one, was slight.

Do I think there are still bias attitudes forwards mixed-race people absolutely, from my personal experience I was either too white/too brown, not white/brown enough. Throw in issues about faith and sexuality and you have a whole heap of crap. I’m sure that you will have heard similar experiences from the people you have interviewed.

The most profound experience I had in my life really was coming to terms and acceptance of my sexuality and it was this that made me understand and accept my heritage. I am unable to say that I am proud to be gay but I am not ashamed either. I didn’t choose my sexuality and realizing that, made me see that this was the same about my being mixed race. I had no choice in my genetic make up either. I am no more proud/ashamed of being half-Pakistani that I am ashamed/proud to breath air. It’s me. And after much introspection, I’m happy to be me.

I am more aware of other mixed race people, whatever their make up and I feel that I have more in common with other mixed race people.   They have shared the same experience of discrimination and feeling like an outsider I find this is our common thread

If you were to be born again would it matter what cultural background you are born into... 

If I were to live my life again, as I’m happy and that I know, can feel and offer love myself, that’s all I need. I don’t ever want to be cold and hungry again either. I think that being mixed race offers an insight into both cultures - you are able to see the good, and more importantly, the negative aspects of them.

I would like to hope that eventually, being mixed race, or being from a minority background shouldn’t matter. But, I think things aren’t as hopeful or utopian as we once thought. Race, faith, skin color and identity - either what you consider yourself, or what people decide that you are, is becoming something that can define you for good and bad. I think we are entering into worrying times ahead and don’t feel confident about our future.