Being of mixed race myself- with a black mum and white dad- I choose, and have always chosen, to identify as black. This is not because I’m ‘denying’ my white half, or because I’m ‘confused’ which are both things I’ve heard before.
Growing up in a single-parent household, I grew up admiring black women. The strength and courage of my mum and aunties, and their love of being black inspired me, I was almost in awe of them. My childhood was largely influenced by Caribbean culture, whether it be food or music, so personally, I have never questioned my ‘blackness’.
As I’ve got older and have the influence of both of my parents, I feel proud of my dual heritage, and don’t feel a need to ‘pick a side’. However, in my view, society will always deem me as black so that’s what I choose to identify as.
Being ‘mixed race’ refers to having parents from two or more backgrounds, it’s commonly misrepresented for being half white and half black, but this is not always the case.
It is the largest growing ethnic group in the UK, so I decided to ask young mixed race people about their unique experiences of being mixed race, and if they’ve ever felt a struggle with their identity:
‘I’ve had loads of people say “you’re basically black” or “if you’ve got any black in you then you should identify as black”. I’ve also had people comment on my hair ignorantly which is annoying.’ – Rhiana, 19
‘My main thoughts on the whole thing is just that people ALWAYS have preconceptions of a mixed race person and seem surprised when your not the stereotypical white mum and black dad type of mixed race. I think it’s about time people got rid of those stereotypes and didn’t say things like “you’re really light for someone who is 3/4 black”, why does my skin colour change anything?’ – Toren, 18
‘Some people think you get special treatment for being half white, but 8/10 white people refer to you as black?’ – Alex, 19
‘Neither side wants to claim us as their own, for white we’re not white enough, and for black we’re not black enough.’
Figures like Meghan Markle have sparked conversation on being mixed race, seeing someone like me as a part of this traditionally all-white family excited me, I felt as though it would change things, people would start speaking about mixed race peoples experience more, but the negative media coverage about her proved that wrong.
Influentials like Barack Obama and Bob Marley are mixed race, and are probably two of the most prominent black figures in society, but they identify differently.
Bob Marley said: “My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.”
However, Obama, who was raised by a white mother identifies as black African-American.
Self-identification is such a complex matter and a difficult thing to talk about, but please don’t tell me what I should identify as, I love both of my parents equally and appreciate both sides but my individual experiences have shaped the way I identify myself.
By Levi Zenani