With more and more people starting to educate themselves on topics surrounding racism, I thought it’s finally the time to share my experiences of growing up mixed race. I am only going to share snippets of my life that were most prominent to me with regards to experiencing racism. I don’t want to give you my life story as that would just take too long and I don’t really want my life out on the internet!
I grew up in very much a white orientated area and I really didn’t understand the level of microagressions or racism that I was experiencing. When you grow up in a society where hearing and seeing microagressions is okay, you don’t realise that you yourself are at the receiving end of racism. ( This was the case for me at least.) I think the BLM movement has been a massive push for everyone and people in BAME communities to speak up about racism and not just think “it’s not that bad I can deal with it…” This is definitely something I’d say to myself if I received any racist actions or comments. I know my experiences are no where near as bad as others and my heart goes out to those who have experienced far worse than me. But I think it’s important to share all experiences of all levels of severity because they all come from one issue… RACISM.
I saw that Eboni from @eboniivoryblog wrote a blog post about being mixed race about a week ago and it made me think that this is something I should definitely do as well! It was a really interesting and eye-opening read so I would deffo check it out! Someone who is mixed-race often grows up in a different environment to those who are of one ethnic group. For me I often felt I had more of a connection with my Chinese side because I was exposed to my Hong Kong heritage a lot more than my Indian side. I have family in Hong Kong, I use to visit Hong Kong once a year and my mum would sometimes speak to me in Chinese at home. This was not the case for my Indian heritage, I barely know where my family come from, I’ve only met one of my two uncles, and I don’t even know what language my grandparents spoke. Despite not having close links with my Indian side of my family, I wear the skin colour that comes from that part of my heritage. You might think saying the word “wear” seems pretty strong, but growing up and experiencing racism makes you realise that you wear your heritage and you can’t always wear it with pride.
(Just a little background, my parents are both immigrants making me the second generation to live in the UK. Both my Mum and Dad grew up in poverty and have worked really hard to get to where they are now. At the time of when they got married, a Chinese women marrying an Indian man was a big no go; but they were the people who broke that prejudice of interracial marriage and I am so proud of that!)
School was one of the worst places I experienced racism as well as a series of microaggresions. One of the more prominent memories I have was when I spoke up about being treated differently compared to the other students and was brushed off by the school. I started to notice that one of the teachers was particularly harsh and rude to an Indian boy in my class as well as myself. I felt that our skin colour was the reason we were being treated so harshly. When I spoke up to the school and expressed that I felt that racism was the course of the issue; the first thing my head of year told me was was, ” that is a very strong statement to make, are you sure you mean it.” Being a 15 year old girl and silenced when speaking up about racism had a huge impact. I would have never thought in a professional working environment that a school would brush off a child who says they feel that they are experiencing racism from a member of staff. It’s simply disgusting. My parents were of course absolutely outraged, and my Mum wrote an email to the school saying, ” if a child feels that they are experiencing racism, then there is an issue whether you think there is one or not.” After that the school got the teacher to apologise for making feel the way I did, but still to this day I don’t think that’s good enough. This incident should have never happened in the first place, no one should ever feel they are being mistreated due to the colour of their skin.
The issues surrounding racism in school didn’t stop there. One of the earliest memories I have was when I was in kindergarten and I use to get laughed at by the other children for the “weird food” I ate at lunch. I continued to get laughed at for what I ate throughout my life. At its worst, I was bullied at school by a group of people who for three years continuously laughed and made fun of me for the food I ate, for the colourful clothes I wore and essentially being different to them. After this episode at school, I used to be really anxious of telling people the things I ate at home with the fear that I was going to be told ” ew that’s disgusting I can’t believe you eat that,” or being laughed at for simply being the person I am/was. Of course the things I wear, the food I eat and my personality are hugely influenced by my heritage and only now am I proud of that. I started to see a pattern which was when people see something that is different to what they perceive as normal, you get targeted. Children and teenagers are particularly bad at appreciating differences, and it’s only now I am starting to realise that it’s okay to be different and it is a blessing! My experiences were most likely made worse by the fact that were was little diversity in my school. There were 3 POC in my year (including myself) and no more than 20 I would say POC throughout the school. I think it didn’t help that the school wasn’t multicultural and that had an impact on those who were different simply due to their ethnicity.
One of the most shocking experiences I’ve ever had to go through was being told by someone that, “You can’t come to my house because you are black.” I don’t even know how to fully express how horrible and wrong that is on so many levels. 1) I cannot believe I live in a society where I was told I couldn’t go to someones house due to my ethnicity. 2) This person knew my heritage and where I came from, but to then chose to disgrace that and mislabel my heritage as something else which is horrible. I really don’t know how to express how this whole situation made me feel and still makes me feel. I don’t know how to put into words how wrong it is… It just makes me very sad that still, in the 21st in the multicultural society we live in, here in the UK how this sort of thing still happens.
IN MORE RECENT YEARS
Name calling at POC has been going on for the longest of times and it’s really about time it STOPS! With my stepdad being British, I definitely picked elements of the English culture adding to my cultural mix. People have called me an ” Oreo” and a “Coconut” saying that I am brown on the outside but have the personality of a white person. What is that meant to mean? That my “exterior” is different to what you are but it’s okay because you’re English deep inside? ( ABSOLUTELY not okay.) At the time I agreed, I didn’t even think of it as racist; and that’s because I’ve grown up in a society where it’s okay to say these sort of terms and didn’t think anything of it. It was only when the BLM movement hit that I started to think and reflect on the experiences I had and began to realise that I can’t allow people to say things like that to me.
As a women studying a STEM subject at University, I am so proud! However, one of the microagressions I have struggled with throughout being at university is that being told, ” oh you’re Indian and Chinese, so you must be doing Medicine.” Stereotyping on any level is wrong. The number of times I have told people I am studying chemistry and they look at me confused is uncountable. Just because I have an Asian heritage doesn’t mean I’m studying medicine or any other subject. You don’t look at someone and base off their looks decide degree they’re studying or what they’re doing in their life … So why do it based on skin colour?
Where am I now with everything?
I spent the last couple of weeks really reflecting on my life experiences, understanding how they made/make me feel and realising that it’s not okay to go through daily life with microaggresions. It’s time we definitely speak up about it. That goes for both those in BAME communities and white people who see racism being exploited. The deep rooted nature of racism means that it’s going to take a lot of digging and understanding of where it comes from to learn how to eradicate it. But essentially, we all have a duty to speak up about it, and we all should learn about these issues by listening to others and opening those history books. I think it’s really important to say that some people are taking their learning online, some are taking it offline and some are talking about these issues with friends and family. All I have to say is that it doesn’t matter how you are educating yourself, as long as you are learning you are taking a step in the right direction.
With that all I can say is I hope you found this insightful and I guess essentially see how in the UK we still have a long way to go!
Photos shot by @bekkycalverphoto