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The Rife Team

Things I Have Learned About Being Mixed Race

Taken from a protest against integration in Little Rock, USA

Taken from a protest against integration in Little Rock, USA

Suraya navigates the trials and tribulations of being mixed race with this handy list.

Finding your identity as somebody who is mixed-race can be a struggle. Understanding your culture becomes much harder when you feel as though you have to pick a side. It took me a while to actually consider the fact that there are people who do not see me as primarily British.

At just six years old being told I wasn’t allowed to play a game because I am ‘too dark’ by another student was a shock. Although my mum is Caucasian and my dad is Libyan, I had never seen myself as different to the other people in my class, yet I was the only one who was not just Caucasian. Obviously at six, it didn’t fully register what this encounter meant, but it is something I have never forgotten about.

There are many issues mixed race people face and here are some lessons I’ve learned as a mixed race girl

1. A Lot Of People May Not Realise Your Parent Is Actually Related To You

It’s a strange feeling when you look at your parent and feel little physical resemblance to them at all. An issue I’m sure most mixed-race people have to deal with is the lack of resemblance to one parent, whether it be your mother or your father, your skin tone and facial features often resemble one parent more than the other. This can be hard to deal with when walking down the street and feeling as if people don’t know that the person you’re walking with is in fact your parent. However it is also something that can be overcome, because of course, they are your parent and there is a resemblance (even if it is just the little things like the fact you both have skinny wrists).

2. Mixed Race Babies Are Idolised Too Much

Mixed race babies and children are not dolls you can play with and stare at all day. They are people, and yes they may be pretty but that doesn’t mean you should sit and gawk at them. The way mixed race babies are idolised sets them off in life to think that they are only valuable for their looks. Well PSA, they can be valuable for a lot more than just their looks. Stop saying you want to adopt a mixed race baby.

3. Calling Us Exotic Is Not A Compliment

I have had to learn not to laugh and let people get away with calling me exotic. Calling people exotic is not a compliment, do not expect us to take it as such. Calling people exotic suggests that we’re unusual or strange, which of course we are not. Most people don’t like to feel singled out, but by calling mixed race people exotic you are isolating us and making us feel like we stand out (but not in a good way).Like I said before, mixed race people are not here for you to stare at, don’t treat us like we are. I’m sure you can come up with a better adjective to compliment us anyway.


4. Filling Out The Box With ‘Other’ Will Forever Be Annoying

When asked what your ethnicity is on forms, we’re always forced to write ‘other’, even when your ethnic makeup is all written out for you, you can only tick one box. If we were allowed to tick more than one box you would get a more accurate representation anyway. I’ve learned I will always be annoyed over this.

5. It’s Okay To Be Confused About Your Identity

Being mixed race can make it hard to understand yourself in terms of your identity. Sometimes you can feel as if you have to decide which culture you most identify with, and reject the other, you can feel as if you have to pick a side, this is however untrue. You can be and are a part of both cultures. I for example have a nose ring and love to wear lots of gold and silver jewellery, which i believe represents a lot of the Libyan culture. It is a small way for me to feel connected to that part of me because my fashion sense all-round is mostly influenced by British culture. It makes it a lot harder for you to understand your identity, when people tell you that you seem more a part of one culture than another. But you decide how much of your culture you partake in.

6. People Will Always Assume You’re Bilingual

No I do not speak Arabic (as much as I wish I do). Not every mixed race person can speak two languages but there will always be people who assume you do and get disappointed when they find out that you don’t.

7. People Will Never Stop Asking ‘What Are You?’

When you’re mixed race people seem to think you are every other race, besides the one you actually are. People will sit and try to guess your race as if it’s some sort of game, and the game usually ends with them saying “so what are you?’ to which I most often reply, ‘human’.

To which they laugh and then reply, ‘No but really, what are you?’

This can become an endless cycle and is easy to get tired of.

Not everybody understands that they’re being blunt or rude, therefore one of the most important things I have learnt is a lot of patience.

Being mixed race means that you get to be a part of multiple cultures, and can make you a lot more open to other cultural ideas and customs. So to those of you that aren’t mixed race, please consider these lessons and refrain from offending mixed race people. To those of you that are mixed race, relish in the fact that you have more options in regards to your culture and the way that you present yourself to the world. I’m glad to be mixed race.

Have you struggled with identity? What’s your take on it? Talk to us @rifemag

The Unity Youth Forum is a great space for BAME voices to be heard.