Biologically I am mixed, I grew up in a single parent household with my Mum who is a Gujarati Indian.
That has meant that I have more of an affinity for my Indian heritage, because my Mum naturally passed on so many Indian traditions to me, including language, food, religious knowledge, culture and popular Indian songs.
My supposed racially ambiguous appearance, means people are sometimes surprised by the extent of my knowledge of Indian culture.
There is a lot of focus on your identity as a mixed person. If you have certain views or don’t like certain cultural things, it is readily attributable to being “only half”. I am not less than or less entitled to claim my identity in a way that I want to simply because I have parents of different races and cultural background.
However, the same “tests” are not applied to others. I still find it odd when people are surprised that I can speak Gujarati as well (or as badly) as they can or engage with Indian culture.
It is my right to engage with my culture as much as anyone else and in a way that is comfortable for me. There are some things in my culture that I don’t agree with or want to do. This is less to do with being mixed and more to do with being an individual-whether we are mixed or not we are all individuals who choose how to reflect our heritage in a way that is authentic to who we are.
It is offensive when people try to tell me what I am.
I grew up in the eighties near Liverpool where there were not many mixed people. I experienced prejudice from all communities and that can be very damaging. There have been outright derogatory remarks about my Indian heritage, being mixed and being “white”. That is often the problem of being mixed, which is you can face racism and prejudice from all sides including the very communities that you hail from, which makes it even more hurtful.
Racism and prejudice can quickly rear their heads when people reveal they are in mixed relationships or you are mixed yourself. The fear is palpable and it is often due to an irrational fear people have over losing identity or the unfamiliar. But even if you may be able to understand that fear, in my view it should not be used to denigrate anyone’s background. Prejudice is prejudice and should be tackled head on, rather than excused. The most difficult comments to deal with are underhand jabs and micro-aggressions, which don’t seem overtly racist but are designed to claim some sort of superiority.
When I was younger, I had to listen to such comments from older adults about my “background” who should have known better. I used to try to ignore them and did internalize a lot of guilt and shame, but now I do make a point of saying something to acknowledge that I have registered the prejudicial remarks and won’t tolerate it, either about myself and my background which I am very proud of, or about any other races or ethnicities.
I have found a lot of strength from my identity as a mixed person.
For a start, I have a window open to different perspectives, and I do think that does mean I can relate to lots of different people. There are challenges, but they are more to do with issues that other people have and I have learnt that sometimes, you need to throw back projections from those who deep down, are insecure in themselves. Race is still taboo, but we do need to talk about it and mixed heritage which is still wildly misunderstood. This is despite the fact that mixed people have been around for a long time, contrary to the perception that we are a modern fashion fad that appeared in the nineties and heavily feature in advertisements as token pieces of a “modern family”.
But we are growing fast, so we can no longer be ignored or deduced to how we look or other stereotypes applied to undermine the mixed experience and identity. Both historical and present day attitudes have tried to stigmatize the mixed identity but we are here to stay and thrive, like everyone else.
Do you have a story of your mixed heritage to share? Let us know your story here