In my latest Minority Musings podcast episode, my guest, Valentia, and I talked about race. Valentia originally came from Ghana, and so we shared our experiences of coming to the UK from abroad at a young age. We also discussed what it means to be Black or biracial in the UK. If you are interested, please listen to the full episode here.
One thing I mentioned, which I have often reflected on, is the mismatch between my identity, as a half English/half Taiwanese person living in the UK, and how people in this country often see me. I live in England. I only speak English. I’m only in touch with the English side of my family. I probably even have a similar mindset and set of biases to most English people. Yet I’ve still had strangers make assumptions about me because I look slightly Asian. I’ve had passers-by shout racist insults at me. I used to get teased at school because of my race. I’ve had well-meaning people see me as a foreigner, even when I make it clear that I have lived in the UK for most of my life. These may seem like small things, but they can feel very alienating.
On a similar note, it really irritates me when people go on about how proud they are to be fully English (or American, or any predominantly white heritage). If they are English, they might also complain, for good measure, about how anyone these days can call themselves “British”*, which apparently makes being “British” meaningless. Sound familiar?
When people get all patriotic and self-righteous about this, it makes me want to ask: is it a great achievement to be born in England (or anywhere in the UK, or the US) to two fully white parents? Do fully white, fully English people choose this over some inherently inferior** option of one or both parents being a different race? Have they ever had to overcome deeply ingrained shame and fear surrounding their race? Do they think they are so much better than those of us who aren’t 100% white? Being proud of one’s culture is one thing. White/pureblood supremacy is quite another.
I should add that I know I get off fairly lightly compared to many Black people, Muslims or (fully) Asian people. I have never been afraid for my life because of my race, nor have I ever had people be afraid of me (as far as I know). I cannot honestly say my experience is on par with those who have ever been hated or attacked because of their race. On the other hand, I have had to deal with insults and assumptions that most people in this country are unlikely to ever face. I feel partly privileged and partly marginalised regarding race, yet I don’t fully identify with either side.
I realise this post may be less informative or entertaining than many of my recent posts, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to discuss here for a while. Please note that this is not an attack on anyone; it’s just my musings and observations as a mixed-race person raised in a predominantly white country. Any readers in a similar position are welcome to share their thoughts and experiences or correct my use of language. Finally, for a more in-depth discussion on how to talk about race, please give the podcast a listen. The more the merrier!
*To clarify for non-British people: Britain = England, Scotland and Wales. UK = Britain and Northern Ireland
**Please note the sarcasm here