What’s your full name?
Leslie Hama Caswell
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
Born in Niamey, Niger. Grew up in Nigeria, boarding school in UK from 14.
What do you do for a living?
Digital Media Manager at Burberry.
What’s your ethnicity?
Black African & White British.
How did your mum and dad meet?
In Ghana, as my dad moved there when he was 21.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
Age 10 going to boarding school in Nigeria and being the only white kid – I tried my best to fit in and show my African heritage.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
I wanted straight hair!
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
When hanging out with black friends, especially African black friends. I can speak pigeon English better than all of them but they can speak a mother tongue which acutely reminds me that I missed out on that due to my education.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
No, but probably because they are not mixed race themselves and due to different schools in different countries they were slightly blind to race, etc. Their focus was always on me and my siblings becoming good human beings and doing our best in all things, nothing more than our best.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
The phrases “But you aren’t really black”, “but you aren’t really white”, “your cousins are white?”
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
YES. Or better yet I wish they cared to even try to understand.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
In UK media I think they are seen as black but light skinned which is probably what they wanted really.
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 think it is easier to be mixed race than be in a mixed race relationship. Would probably bucket mixed race racism in the same category as black racism.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
Blessing. It is a super power to be able to understand people and cultures quicker than other people. True blessing!
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?
In formal situations I am conscious I am judged by my choices, music choices, celebrity examples, etc. The struggle is more that I don’t want to be silo-ed into one race. I read a lot. I had to understand better what it was to be black, especially living in the UK. I am not afforded white privilege and I grew up with it so it has taken me time. It has also helped to have great men and women before me show me who they are and how they own their race – e.g. Obama, Bob Marley, etc.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Your skin doesn’t define you but your culture does, so be proud of your heritage! Don’t fall for what society labels you because society is flawed and ignorant. Don’t joke about it like you use to that is a weapon and you will be ashamed that you even entertained such jokes.
Is there anything more you would like to say?
Being in a mixed relationship at present, I am even more worried about my future child’s upbringing. I understand the complexities but I would be devastated if they do not understand heritage and accept the world is imperfect so they will struggle with the same thing.