Another piece for Black History Month...on growing up mixed race in a white world


ONE LOVE. ONE RACE. HUMAN

I grew up with a keen and innate understanding of how interesting (not to mention complicated) genetics is. I am one of 4 siblings from one Indian parent and one St Lucian. We all have a similar look about us but are also very individual in terms of how those respective cultural traits have expressed themselves in us. Many folk will not see the Indian in me, for example, cos my hair is afro... (an easy and to many obvious marker of blackness) more so than any of my siblings. Yet I am also the lightest in colour. We all have different shades, tones. Different hair textures, different noses. Body types.

My daughters, both with different fathers, both white fathers, have different looks about them too yet also a similarity that binds them. I understand why they are different but the same in some ways. I also understand how and why they are different in some ways but the same in others to me. Genetics. It’s fucking complicated but ultimately we share many features. My afro hair not being one and the timbre of my colouring being another. This is part of the beautiful tapestry of having mixed race kids. Or rather the more different, further and more distinctly separated your gene pool to that of who you breed with, the greater the potential for multiple variations.

I’ve always taken this understanding for granted. But have come to realise, since having my own children, how many people are so very, very ignorant. How many people cannot help but somehow react to a dark skinned, beafroed woman, breastfeeding a fair skinned child. Kissing said child on the mouth and telling her you love her publicly or simply presenting yourself in a social situation as that child’s parent.

Comments/reactions I’ve had over the years that have particularly stuck out;

ONE LOVE. ONE RACE. HUMAN

I grew up with a keen and innate understanding of how interesting (not to mention complicated) genetics is. I am one of 4 siblings from one Indian parent and one St Lucian. We all have a similar look about us but are also very individual in terms of how those respective cultural traits have expressed themselves in us. Many folk will not see the Indian in me, for example, cos my hair is afro... (an easy and to many obvious marker of blackness) more so than any of my siblings. Yet I am also the lightest in colour. We all have different shades, tones. Different hair textures, different noses. Body types.

My daughters, both with different fathers, both white fathers, have different looks about them too yet also a similarity that binds them. I understand why they are different but the same in some ways. I also understand how and why they are different in some ways but the same in others to me. Genetics. It’s fucking complicated but ultimately we share many features. My afro hair not being one and the timbre of my colouring being another. This is part of the beautiful tapestry of having mixed race kids. Or rather the more different, further and more distinctly separated your gene pool to that of who you breed with, the greater the potential for multiple variations.

I’ve always taken this understanding for granted. But have come to realise, since having my own children, how many people are so very, very ignorant. How many people cannot help but somehow react to a dark skinned, beafroed woman, breastfeeding a fair skinned child. Kissing said child on the mouth and telling her you love her publicly or simply presenting yourself in a social situation as that child’s parent.

Comments/reactions I’ve had over the years that have particularly stuck out;

Furrowed eyebrows from folk when I’ve breastfed my kids in public. All women get that. That is a societal issue in itself that requires it’s own rant (another time). But I have learnt to distinguish between the simple horror at public breastfeeding and that particular look of surprise and odd concern (mainly from other women)... do they think I’ve overstepped the mark as the hired help? Do they assume I’m a wet nurse, and are querying how they feel about that concept. Are they deep down in their psyches assuming I am not the birth mother due to the difference in colour of mine and my child’s skin, and our hair. Two easy common markers of us n them.

Are they your kids? I have had that question actually asked maybe a dozen times... which is harsh enough. But what’s worse is the more common look I get that says this, silently, cowardly...unable to own that instinct but unable to suppress expression of it. Would these same people assume a dark haired white child was not the biological offspring of someone blond acting the role of parent? Mmm, I think not.

Blatantly dirty looks (from white, to black, to brown, to yellow. Male and female) that suggest an understanding that this is my child but an inherent discomfort/disgust that I’ve bred with someone not in my racial group. These are the worst. Really hurtful and upsetting. Upsetting cos it disregards the right of my child’s individuality. They are not a set of genetic markers. Or more poignantly, they are both much more than that. There is a point where politics should lie down and humanity should stand tall. Children. Love. Being 2 of those points.

I have had people who don’t experience this; white, black, brown parents, whose child shares obvious racialised markers with them, give me that quizzical, querying look when I try to express this. ‘Are you sure it’s not just x, y or z - cos I’ve had similar... I had a guy look at me with disgust when breastfeeding...’ as lib, to fade... the implicit being so very explicit here. Cos what they are actually saying is ‘because I haven’t experienced what you are talking about, it doesn’t exist.’ What they are doing is trying to say their struggles are the same as mine and I’m being arrogant or paranoid to think the world might operate in ways they personally don’t see/experience. These things are subtle and nuanced but the more I talk to parents with mixed race children, the more I'm realising it is indeed a thing

I remember being at the swimming pool with my eldest years ago. She was only 18 months and had recently stopped breastfeeding. She was upset cos she was tired after swimming but couldn’t settle, so I tried her on the boob to see if that would work. It didn’t. Even just a few weeks without breastfeeding and she was over the boob (unlike my youngest who stopped at 4.5 but still at 7 wants to 'pretend' every now and again). A white mother sat opposite me, gently breastfeeding her younger white blonde child whilst her other 2 played nicely by her feet. She looked at me with an odd expression I couldn’t place at the time and said ‘how long have you had her?’ I totally didn’t read the question correctly and just replied that she was 18 months old and went on to explain that I had stopped breastfeeding her a month ago and how I was probably struggling with that process of adjustment more than my daughter. The woman continued to look puzzled. My eldest had straight bright ginger hair and white, white skin at that age. She was also a round ball of dough and I was pretty trim, dark, cos it was the height of summer and had dreads at the time. Where most people would have surely figured it out by that point, the woman just said, ‘wow, I’ve heard induced lactation is really tricky, well done you...’ I then clocked what she was saying and all of a sudden felt so angry. I thought we were connecting on a mummy level. A level I have connected with many random women on over the years (and been grateful for that). But she was just doing that thing... a thing I hadn’t fully gotten my head around at that point. I felt that yet again, as in so many other arenas of life, the markers of my (and my daughters) racial group were being clocked and assimilated and used to form an opinion before anything else.

I didn’t say anything to her or mention it to anyone at the time because the pain that that and other similar comments, looks etc. caused me to feel was too raw and I didn’t understand it well enough. It was more after having my second child that I fully understood it and felt more confident standing up to the subtle digs and expressing how they felt to the wider world.

A few months ago on the bus on the way into town a white woman and her black boyfriend got on the bus and sat near me and the girls. I hate to say it but both of them working their rude bwoi and rude gyal style in full force. She had her hair dyed black, braids in, looked a bit dancehall ragga, speaking more patois than her fella... he said little, just eyeballed me in a slightly aggressive fashion. I held his gaze, and after a period asked (very politely) Are you ok? He just said ‘they your kids? Eyebrows raised in a way that I’ve seen just too many times before... this shit goes way beyond the ignorance of someone being confused that a dark skinned woman could give birth to children a different shade, closer to white than herself. No, THIS shit was and is about... oh, so you bred with a white guy then...traitor... The guy was young, like early 20’s. It would be nice to think that sort of fuckery had died or dissipated but no, seemingly it’s alive and kicking. And the hypocrisy when he is sat there with some modern day version of a minstrel! I’m sorry if I’m offending huge reams of folk but fact is, when he said that, SHE sucked her teeth in agreement with his implicit suggestion... haha! You couldn’t make this shit up... She; fetishising blackness He; fetishising the prowess and dominance of manhood and totally misunderstanding what the struggle for equality and freedom really means... Stupidity and ignorance comes in all guises...

The second scenario was upsetting mainly because it represents a mind-set I find so destructive to moving forward. That young black man’s anger that I, as a woman of colour should observe certain rules (that he has decided are necessary for the future of equality and harmony) and felt justified in being angry at me, a total stranger to him because I ‘gave myself’ to a white man, also says something about the intersectional nature if this. Because I, as a woman have no agency here. Or shouldn’t have. Him as a black man, sowing his wild seed with whomever he choses is fine, acceptable, but I am not afforded that same choice, because I’m a woman.

The first scenario and ones like that, hurt in a more visceral and poignant way. Being made to feel that your connection to your child is somehow less valid, less recognised, is in question, because of other peoples inability to see beyond racial stereotypes. It is hurtful, especially in those early years when you are getting your head around being a parent.

Nowadays, I am more likely to handle these situations better. With the couple on the bus, my decision was not to tackle them further, cos of my own stereotyping of aggressive youths on buses in Nottingham, i.e., I didn’t want to be knifed or put my kids in danger. But the last time someone gave me that look, in regards my kids, they got a serious mouthful from me, including me shouting, at the top of my lungs ‘what the fucking fuck are YOU fucking looking at?’ In Waitrose of all places. This was delivered to an old ish south east Asian man who looked from my daughters to me, then back again... he looked disgusted, whispered something (not in English) to his wife and then just stared at me. Until I shouted that. Him and his wife looked terrified and ran off. Good. Anyone that wants to tell me I’m too sensitive and he probably didn’t mean it like that can do one basically. I have a keen eye for those looks, edges and airs of insincerity. No, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, it’s just what existing in this identity has taught me. I have come to realise though, that there will always be folks trying to tell you its all in your mind when your perceptions sit uncomfortably with them. When they worry that your perceptions might say something bad about an aspect of their identity.

Ignorance is everywhere.


My girls are part of a growing community of mixed or dual heritage people. One thing I’ve always found fascinating is that generally, to be considered dual heritage or mixed race, there needs to be parents of different colours. So for example, someone who is half Swedish and half French and both parents were white. Would they be considered mixed race or would there be as much political intrigue attached to the nature of their dual heritage. And what about someone who is half Ghanaian and half Jamaican. Would they be considered mixed...? No cos black is black and white is white. But technically, they are. There is a phrase in one of the many Flemish dialects that is used to refer to mixed race (black/brown and white) children; nusu nusu. Which directly translated means half and half. But is only used when referring to colour. Because mixing colours in regards breeding needs to have a point made about it, it needs to be held up and highlighted as being a point of interest. Much more so than any other form of mixing.

Think about that. What that might actually mean. About how we (not so much anymore) use the term mixed race and biracial. Are we split into different races according to colour? Is that a scientific fact? Does colour mean more (in terms of a marker of attributes) than country of origin, naturalisation? Or is it simply a political device. Going back to good old white supremacist propaganda.

I have a white Belgian friend who had children with a white Welsh guy. Neither of them grew up in England. But neither of her children will be referred to as mixed race, even though her and her partner grew up in very different cultures. Me and my baby fathers all grew up in England. But yes have different heritages but it’s the colour of my skin that determines their status of mixed race. Nothing else.

 

 

 

 

I remember being at the swimming pool with my eldest years ago. She was only 18 months and had recently stopped breastfeeding. She was upset cos she was tired after swimming but couldn’t settle, so I tried her on the boob to see if that would work. It didn’t. Even just a few weeks without breastfeeding and she was over the boob (unlike my youngest who stopped at 4.5 but still at 7 wants to 'pretend' every now and again). A white mother sat opposite me, gently breastfeeding her younger white blonde child whilst her other 2 played nicely by her feet. She looked at me with an odd expression I couldn’t place at the time and said ‘how long have you had her?’ I totally didn’t read the question correctly and just replied that she was 18 months old and went on to explain that I had stopped breastfeeding her a month ago and how I was probably struggling with that process of adjustment more than my daughter. The woman continued to look puzzled. My eldest had straight bright ginger hair and white, white skin at that age. She was also a round ball of dough and I was pretty trim, dark, cos it was the height of summer and had dreads at the time. Where most people would have surely figured it out by that point, the woman just said, ‘wow, I’ve heard induced lactation is really tricky, well done you...’ I then clocked what she was saying and all of a sudden felt so angry. I thought we were connecting on a mummy level. A level I have connected with many random women on over the years (and been grateful for that). But she was just doing that thing... a thing I hadn’t fully gotten my head around at that point. I felt that yet again, as in so many other arenas of life, the markers of my (and my daughters) racial group were being clocked and assimilated and used to form an opinion before anything else.

I didn’t say anything to her or mention it to anyone at the time because the pain that that and other similar comments, looks etc. caused me to feel was too raw and I didn’t understand it well enough. It was more after having my second child that I fully understood it and felt more confident standing up to the subtle digs and expressing how they felt to the wider world.

A few months ago on the bus on the way into town a white woman and her black boyfriend got on the bus and sat near me and the girls. I hate to say it but both of them working their rude bwoi and rude gyal style in full force. She had her hair dyed black, braids in, looked a bit dancehall ragga, speaking more patois than her fella... he said little, just eyeballed me in a slightly aggressive fashion. I held his gaze, and after a period asked (very politely) Are you ok? He just said ‘they your kids? Eyebrows raised in a way that I’ve seen just too many times before... this shit goes way beyond the ignorance of someone being confused that a dark skinned woman could give birth to children a different shade, closer to white than herself. No, THIS shit was and is about... oh, so you bred with a white guy then...traitor... The guy was young, like early 20’s. It would be nice to think that sort of fuckery had died or dissipated but no, seemingly it’s alive and kicking. And the hypocrisy when he is sat there with some modern day version of a minstrel! I’m sorry if I’m offending huge reams of folk but fact is, when he said that, SHE sucked her teeth in agreement with his implicit suggestion... haha! You couldn’t make this shit up... She; fetishising blackness He; fetishising the prowess and dominance of manhood and totally misunderstanding what the struggle for equality and freedom really means... Stupidity and ignorance comes in all guises...

The second scenario was upsetting mainly because it represents a mind-set I find so destructive to moving forward. That young black man’s anger that I, as a woman of colour should observe certain rules (that he has decided are necessary for the future of equality and harmony) and felt justified in being angry at me, a total stranger to him because I ‘gave myself’ to a white man, also says something about the intersectional nature if this. Because I, as a woman have no agency here. Or shouldn’t have. Him as a black man, sowing his wild seed with whomever he choses is fine, acceptable, but I am not afforded that same choice, because I’m a woman.

The first scenario and ones like that, hurt in a more visceral and poignant way. Being made to feel that your connection to your child is somehow less valid, less recognised, is in question, because of other peoples inability to see beyond racial stereotypes. It is hurtful, especially in those early years when you are getting your head around being a parent.

Nowadays, I am more likely to handle these situations better. With the couple on the bus, my decision was not to tackle them further, cos of my own stereotyping of aggressive youths on buses in Nottingham, i.e., I didn’t want to be knifed or put my kids in danger. But the last time someone gave me that look, in regards my kids, they got a serious mouthful from me, including me shouting, at the top of my lungs ‘what the fucking fuck are YOU fucking looking at?’ In Waitrose of all places. This was delivered to an old ish south east Asian man who looked from my daughters to me, then back again... he looked disgusted, whispered something (not in English) to his wife and then just stared at me. Until I shouted that. Him and his wife looked terrified and ran off. Good. Anyone that wants to tell me I’m too sensitive and he probably didn’t mean it like that can do one basically. I have a keen eye for those looks, edges and airs of insincerity. No, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, it’s just what existing in this identity has taught me. I have come to realise though, that there will always be folks trying to tell you its all in your mind when your perceptions sit uncomfortably with them. When they worry that your perceptions might say something bad about an aspect of their identity.

Ignorance is everywhere.


My girls are part of a growing community of mixed or dual heritage people. One thing I’ve always found fascinating is that generally, to be considered dual heritage or mixed race, there needs to be parents of different colours. So for example, someone who is half Swedish and half French and both parents were white. Would they be considered mixed race or would there be as much political intrigue attached to the nature of their dual heritage. And what about someone who is half Ghanaian and half Jamaican. Would they be considered mixed...? No cos black is black and white is white. But technically, they are. There is a phrase in one of the many Flemish dialects that is used to refer to mixed race (black/brown and white) children; nusu nusu. Which directly translated means half and half. But is only used when referring to colour. Because mixing colours in regards breeding needs to have a point made about it, it needs to be held up and highlighted as being a point of interest. Much more so than any other form of mixing.

Think about that. What that might actually mean. About how we (not so much anymore) use the term mixed race and biracial. Are we split into different races according to colour? Is that a scientific fact? Does colour mean more (in terms of a marker of attributes) than country of origin, naturalisation? Or is it simply a political device. Going back to good old white supremacist propaganda.

I have a white Belgian friend who had children with a white Welsh guy. Neither of them grew up in England. But neither of her children will be referred to as mixed race, even though her and her partner grew up in very different cultures. Me and my baby fathers all grew up in England. But yes have different heritages but it’s the colour of my skin that determines their status of mixed race. Nothing else.

 

 

 

 

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(S)llew la Wulf
(S)llew la Wulf

Yet another artist screaming (colourfully) into the void. I like to dance. I write. I do self portraiture and i draw... I cover topics ranging from racial bias to female sexuality to capitalism to rape culture and of course, love ❤️


Llewella_la_femme
Llewella_la_femme

Some of my more political writing and art...

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