All I can do is write based on my personal point of view. So before you read on, know that I am aware everyone has their own experiences and I am merely portraying my own thoughts on this matter. It is a big issue, as to which we all have our own opinions. These are mine.
The subject I am briefly addressing is that of being a mixed race person in British society. The reason this has come to mind is because recently I got into a discussion with a friend who shall remain nameless and meant no harm, but who said that in his opinion, being mixed race, if anything gave you more options then if you were simply black or white and that it was more of a help than a hindrance.
Now I have many issues with this statement. One of the biggest being that this was coming from a white middle class fellow that really could have no idea what it’s like to be mixed race. I didn’t get angry because firstly, he didn’t know what he was talking about and secondly, I think many people have misconceptions of what it is to be mixed race. Especially because every persons experience is different. For me personally, in my past being mixed race has never helped me. Until recently, when I began I appreciate the gift that it is to have so many different cultures and stories mixed up in my heritage, I saw being mixed race as another quality that made me stick out from my peers.
The way I try to explain this to people is that if there were two rooms, one full of black people and one full of white people, I would stick out in both. And that’s what it’s always been for me. In school, at home, with my family, with my friends, I’ve been different. All prejudice really boils down to is people’s perceptions of others and themselves. I’m just not wild about letting someone tell me how lucky I am to be mixed race before they consider the years of prejudice and self-doubt that’s come with being born with a certain skin colour in a society that isn’t always willing to let you forget it.
Even now I don’t feel totally comfortable in my skin here. As a mixed race child in Britain I was bullied in Wales for being black, and bullied in Bristol for being a wash out. I’ve been told I was a ‘crap black person’ because I didn’t act a certain way, and though I’ve always attempted to laugh it off, it’s a confusing thing. Why can’t I just be whoever I am? Why do I have to conform to someone else’s idea of what a black person is or should be? The only time I’ve felt truly happy in my skin is when I was in New York, because there it didn’t matter. Everyone was mixed race; so no-one was. Class was more of an issue and because I’m English, no-one could really pin point me- it was amazing. Suddenly my personality was the only thing that was judged, my skin colour had nothing to do with it.
Maybe I’m more conscious of how people act around me because I’ve had bad experiences. Only a couple of months ago I went to a pub in the middle-of-nowhere English countryside with my mum, and the second I walked in I felt uncomfortable. I remember my mum looking at me and asking why I was so angry, but I didn’t have an answer. It had been such a long time since I’d walked into a room and had every pair of blank eyes look at what I was doing, I’d forgotten what that feeling was. As soon as we left (after about 5 minutes) I recognised what had happened; the stares that which may not have been hateful, were still relentless. They made me feel like I didn’t belong, I wasn’t welcome.
Then there’s the ‘casual racism’ that occurs with friends and strangers, which also isn’t ok. I don’t know why I still allow people to say things to me like, ‘you’re our token, you make the whole group feel like we’re not racist’. Really? You really said that to me?! And I’m just supposed to laugh it off…?! I clearly need new friends. People at various jobs that have picked up on having a ‘sista’ on the team to ask all the ‘black’ questions. Its infuriating…and yet I play along because I don’t really know what else to do. Being mixed race, on occasion, has turned me into a bridge; its like wearing a mascot costume you can’t take off.
At the end of the day racism is a big word, and not one that should be used lightly. I know that most of the people that say stupid shit are doing so out of ignorance and not hate which is the difference. But of all the apparent awareness that’s promoted, I can’t see a whole lot of positive change. Apparently now, the only way to prove you’re NOT racist is to be REALLY racist…but in a FUNNY way!
Guess what, it’s never funny. Think before you speak, because you never know what experiences someone else may have had. Racism is never a subject for banter, its personal and significant, and should not be joked about by others.