What’s your full name?
Harrison Arjun Aujla
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
Brought up in Wraysbury, small village situated 10 minutes from Windsor, 40 minutes from London.
What do you do for a living?
Work as an Assistant Manager in Caffe Nero.
What’s your ethnicity?
Half Indian (Punjab region) Half English.
How did your mum and dad meet?
They met at drama school in Birmingham.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I was 14 years old, people started calling me a “Yellow Paki Terrorist” at school as a “joke”, but it hit much deeper than that. It made me ashamed of my Indian Punjabi heritage, and I shunned it’s ideals for years. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I understood the gift of being mixed race, and at 19 I asserted my heritage by getting the Sikh Khanda tattooed onto my right arm.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
Absolutely! At first I wanted to go back to being blonde (I was born a very light child, the eyes are the only thing that remains of my two year old self) but slowly my opinion changed once I got to 16/17 and I started to understand that being darker skinned was attractive, and your outside can only be as good as your heart and soul.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
At primary school, during assemblies people spoke about God and Jesus. But I was brought up with no religion so that I could make my own choices, and didn’t form an identity based on a “white” faith, or a “brown” faith, it was like I was being forced by the school into something I certainly felt no attachment or belief in.
Another moment was when I was about 5 years old and was asked to draw a self portrait at school. All the other kids used a pink crayon for their skin, but I wasn’t white, so instead I divided my face, and put half pink and half brown, because there weren’t any pencils to match my skin colour.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Yes, as I mentioned previously I was raised without faith so that I could make my own choices as to whether there is a God, and in which way would I want to practice that faith. We took part in Christmas, and we took part in Guru Nanaks birthday! I was lucky to be very much in touch with both sides of my parents. I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
“So is it your mum that’s Indian”, to me this comment means that an Indian person simply couldn’t be handsome enough to land a white woman, and that Indian women are super submissive to the charm of a white man!
“But you’re not a real Indian/Englishman” Then where the fuck do I belong? In a zoo? On an isolated place? People seem to think that because I’m not pure one way or the other, that I lack no values of their culture. This one absolutely irks me the most.
“That’s so hot!” While it’s meant as a compliment, it also feels like I’m being objectified by my “Exotic” background.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
The fact that I do identify with two different groups- that I’m one with two cultures. It seems strange to so many that I can celebrate traditional English holidays, but also go to a Gurdwara and partake in Langar (Communal Kitchen). I can eat a Roast Dinner on a Sunday, but also a Tandoori Chicken. I am two different cultures, but at the end of the day, I’m just one person, not two foreign entities.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
I think it’s great that mixed race people can land so many roles in media! There’s a lot of us that work in film/TV! But…. we are playing single race characters, you have a tan complexion? You’re Iranian or Middle Eastern. You’re Oriental with dark skin? You’re Nepali! I can’t name a single mixed race character off the top of my head.
Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?
I feel that being mixed race has become accepted in British society. Yet, as more mixed race babies are born, there will certainly be more racism. Since the Brexit vote we have seen such an increase in racism already in the country, that I grow scared for the mixed race kids of the next generation, who grow up through a government who does little to condemn racism against this new “breed” of kids. You are a product of your environment, not of your bloodline.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
A blessing, I’ve been given a mix of genes which allows me to feel a sense of identity that few others have yet to experience. I’m born and molded with ideals of two faiths, which enriches me as a person. I would never trade my Indian heritage for a full English identity, and I’d never trade my English heritage for a full Indian identity.
Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?
I’ve felt the struggle, I wanted to be a good clean Christian White person. I dealt with it once I started to travel and saw that the world is filled with more than just the Western image, but that by embracing your own unique race, you can see the world through a different point of view. You can see it’s beauty from the eyes of an “outsider”.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep cool, stay proud, and allow your personality to soar.