My name is Jake and I was born in South East London raised by my mother who was a single parent living in a council estate in Woolwich. We struggled and then struggled some more with no involvement from my father who lived locally.
My mother’s side were all white British but my father’s side was mixed with my Grandma’s carribean heritage namely Trinidad. Growing up I never knew my father nor my father’s family, I didn’t even know what he looked like. I was always told by others that I had “Black” in me but I never really understood what this meant.
When I started going to primary school I noticed from very young age that I was different to everyone else, I looked different. I would always look at my school photos and compare myself to my other classmates who were all predominantly Caucasian.
My school in the 90s was predominatly white and in my class photos I was the only boy with a glowing golden olive complexion, thick coarse jet black hair and my grandmother’s Trinidadian features. I was always considered white by my mothers side and by my friends growing up which really did cause issues with my identity as I got older.
Fast forward to secondary school my physical features made it quite clear I was mixed. My hair became thicker, curlier and my skin tone was darker than all my other white class mates. I had never labelled myself as mixed race but people began to ask me “where are you from?” and “where are you really from?” which really started to confuse me.
I had always called myself white due to my own naivety. What people really wanted to know was where did my colour and features come from and this is when I would stutter nervously and say Trinidad. I felt fake and I felt as if I was appropriating a culture which wasn’t mine.
From a little boy I yearned to learn about my grandmother, her country and my background. I hadn’t even met that side of the family yet until a few years later when I was in my later teens. During my time at secondary school I failed to fit in massively.
My school back then had small groups of whites, blacks and goths all segregated into little groups during break times. I found myself being embraced by Black people more than white and it was those of colour that would often encourage me to call myself mixed race.
After some time I found the power to speak out when challenged only to be knocked down by the white boys often being told “your white” and your just a “wigga” which totally deflated me. I struggled a lot with my identity but after some time I finally met my aunts and grandmother and straight away I knew who I was.
I was proud, I saw the melanin glowing in my grandmother with the most beautiful complexion, a strong Black woman who I could see was really apart of me. My aunts and cousins all of the same hair, colour, features and complexion if not darker. I said to my aunty I’m shocked that all my cousins look mixed race, this is when she laughed and told me that I am the same as them and it was true.
This really confirmed my identity and answered so many questions. I felt safe to ask questions about my heritage, I was ok to be myself because the truth is my mother’s side just wasn’t cultured enough to teach me and they probably just didn’t know.
That point up until now was when I truly understood how important it was to identify as being mixed race to help fight the colourist stigma I had encountered throughout my younger years. Not being dark enough was a battle I had during secondary school but my amazing Black friends spotted my mix before I did and helped me to embrace it.
Even now in my line of work as a police officer many Black people make some really heart warming comments about my race with great curiosity which of course leads to some amazing eye opening conversations.
Before my Trinidadian grandmother sadly passed away this year she told me that we have a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Trinidadian and African in our blood which makes so much sense to me now and clarifies my passion for hot food, spices, and my love for music and culture. Thanks for reading.
Thanks Jake – I hope this inspires others to share their story @ tinyurl.com/mixedheritage