What’s your full name?
Linxi Camellia Doël - or 林茜
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
What do you do for a living?
English and Drama student at University of Exeter.
What’s your ethnicity?
Half British and half Chinese - or according to the census, Mixed White Other (kmt)
How did your mum and dad meet?
I had to call them for this one. The call lasted an hour! My dad volunteered for a while at a reception at a refugee centre near Ashford and befriended my mum’s cousin who had fled Vietnam as a Chinese man. Dad would drive them around to see the country and help them with every day stuff and language. My dad’s family is based in Maidstone and my mum’s cousin Li was housed in Maidstone; the locals were antagonistic and Li discovered they could swap housing with other refugees. They felt like they might connect more with say the black community in East London than the white community in Maidstone, so they moved. (We’re talking 80’s.) Li got married and had children and asked my dad if he wanted to write to my mum, in which he was implying an engagement but my dad wasn’t aware! They wrote letters for 6 years and my dad invited her to England. Her visa to England was denied three times, but she was able to come on a fiance visa. They married within the allotted time!
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I think I am counter-cultural generally and my faith might have been a part of that. In current university life that means I have no desire to drink or take any of that good stuff, but also the wonder people have of how do you go to all these nights and dance on water. I’m dancing for joy I don’t know what you man are dancing for! I think ethnicity can’t be singled out as a factor, socio-economic factors like being native and also first generation, growing up on a council estate in a posh area, walking through the estate and all the youts leaning on the fence with their hoods up being like “you going library again?” Racially speaking, it was more going to university and leaving London made me aware because I was in a place where white was majority and white was dominant in staff, council, lecturers etc. It was living in halls of 7 other white girls that made me realise, rather than them, that there was this dominant idea of ‘white’ and I was far removed. Obviously, growing up in Kingston you kind of gauge that the norm is a nuclear family whose parents have jobs, live in a house, have siblings, pet, car, garden, play tennis, but that was more ‘middle class is the norm’ not ‘white is the norm’.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
No, it was more this phase of ‘I’m fat’ which I think every healthy young teenage girl is duped into. I did get to a point where I was like…yo…where all my people at? And sort of understanding that there were none.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Being told to go back to my country by some kid on my council estate when I was trying to play football in the cage…like…honey, evidently we are growing up in the same place. He was a real nasty piece of work.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Definitely not. I don’t think the mixed race identity or experience was anything that occurred to them. China is such a homogeneous country and I daresay Kent is too! I don’t think the mixed race experience is anything new, Britain has been a mix of cultures before the Anglo-Saxon settlers. I think the idea of Britishness is new, something coined after the world wars and imperialism. It’s something still perpetuated by The Sun that the Other is a threat. I think my dad not realising, or at least not teaching white privilege as a thing and my mum not expecting racism, (why would you?), are also factors. My mum is still accepting that I have the mind of a British liberal and that idea of what a woman should be.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
When people cast you for being white, which is fair like thanks for the role, but I had a comment like ‘don’t worry’ like I got the role because I could pass. Or when ethnicity isn’t considered as part of a story, so if I’m trying to get into character I have to ignore my immigrant experience or disregard the question of “how does immigration work in this fictitious universe?” because it is irrelevant to the plot but it isn’t irrelevant to me. Essentially, I must pretend I am white because that is default and any other experience is too complex/irrelevant. Which I am, but I’m not.
Being exoticised by both sides. As a kid, I used to detest and despise going to China because I would be elevated as I guess this idea of white idolatry or glorification, something part of their identity but also the superior white race. I don’t need to bleach my skin or hide a flat nose, I’m so ‘tall’ etc.
In Britain, it’s mostly seedy guys who I guess think you’re hot for being foreign but relatable and non-threatening enough.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
That I am not white and I don't relate really to the white experience and I identify as mixed-race as I feel like a lot of people now do. In London, or other cities, you have white people using Patois and Arabic in their colloquial language, (Wagwan, wallah etc.) and might feel very influenced by say a Caribbean culture depending on which area they come from and they might be white but not identify so much with the idea of whiteness.
There’s a new(?), or at least post WWII-immigration culture emerging of mixed-ness, which is fine, but when you step out and go somewhere very English or ‘white’ it’s like a totally different environment.
Of course, that’s just a thing, there’s nothing to be understood, except that it's the dominant culture in which holds power and influence currently and historically. Obviously some mixed race people have no issues with race, or one parent or culture was absent in their lives, yet even friends I have spoken to suffer (because of othering) or have to experience looking differently but not having that different culture influence their lives because that family member passed away or whatever.
There’s not yet a guideline, or major representation, so I am still discovering my identity, what it means to have the blood of the oppressor and the blood of the oppressed, or in my case two very historically violent nations, of having white privilege and experiencing racism, of existing with two histories and wanting to learn more about one that you might feel deprived of.
As you don’t belong in one camp, or the other, we have made our own camp that includes anyone. That’s what I liked a lot from the vibes of growing up in London and why I felt so dislocated when I moved to Exeter.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
If they are non-threatening. White dad, black mum, cute light-skin kids with afros in a middle class house in a smiley advert. I don’t remember who said it but they had to keep their afro to keep a certain marketable look, and of course in other situations hair out is a no-no.
I had realised until very recently that I had excused representation of myself entirely from any forms of media and started to worry about being cast as an actress in the future, I could never be Mulan and wouldn’t want to be Elizabeth although I might pass for her. I was at a mate’s house and they were watching Altered Carbon and I was like WOAH IS THAT...IS THAT ME? So there’s hope - Big Hero 6 included a mixed Japanese lead too! But I had agreed that mixed race was synonymous to black-white, when bare mixes of all sorts are emerging to be the norm and so we should! So where are we on the screen?
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?
That still has me shook like…rah…it was immoral for me to exist! Man used to be lynched for love. From a Chinese/White experience, you experience reactions of like wow that’s cool and exotic I wish I was that. Like bruh, allow it, I’m not like your instagram goals.
You hear a lot of comments of I want a mixed race baby cos it will be so cute. I mean, yeah we are cute, but you as a white person experiencing privilege, desiring offspring that will have an experience of racism in which you most likely have not considered, and seeking a partner of ethnic minority to fulfil desires of exoticism and ‘cute babies’…just like it’s easy for you to say that and romanticise it from a position of social and historical power, which obviously you’re not thinking about cos you’re thinking about your cute babies.
I mean, I don’t know, sure it might be because mixed race babies are cute, but also you get say jokes among young black guys about getting a white girlfriend because it has connotations of elevating a status or being desirable. I was having a discussion with my friend that black women dislike that pairing because it gives a sense of ‘then who would want me?’
What should happen is you will fall in love when you fall in love and even then you will not understand their racial issues because you have married them. And if you marry a mixed race person, same thing. But I’m trying to say like you might fall in love with someone and you happen to be this colour and they happen to be that, but that will unfortunately mean implications for each of you and experiences you will have to share that you might not have encountered unless we eradicate racism tomorrow or something.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
Wow. Um. It just is what it is. I’d be pissed to be one thing to be honest, must be dull. But if someone had written a guidebook that would have been great.
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?
Ha. Hahaha. Ha… Yeah I don’t know what’s going on or who I am. I know I am God’s child and that’s what really matters. Obviously, race is a construct but because it has a place among power structure it’s something I have to consider. Yo this is tough. No I’m not at peace with who I am, I think I’d like to figure out more what it means to be British and what it means to be Chinese, understand the history and philosophy of both cultures, combine the dress of both cultures. It’s a shame because obviously the West has influenced a lot of the world now and even itself! I’m just very confused and need to keep figuring it out haha!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You shoulda learnt to write Chinese. Don’t put on your posh English voice at the till, I know you’re little but have a go at anyone who treats your mum even slightly dubiously a leetle bit rude because honey, it’s closet racism. You shoulda found a Chinese community but I guess that’s not really your fault. You shoulda learnt Kung Fu and whopped anyone who mentioned any sort of cuisine at you. Wow, this is really bad advice. Good thing it’s impossible!
Is there anything more you'd like to say?
Blimey, that was a work out. More? Okay. Although no-one was more oppressed than the black person, who was made slave and justified by being called lowest of intelligence, ‘beast’ and ‘demon’, these men who were the first kings and queens of civilisation, rich in gold and education, the fathers and mothers of the human race, their colour have been oppressed the most, yet they are represented in the media. So yes, still there needs to be a black lives matter movement, black men and women are disproportionately stopped and searched, pulled over, but in terms of representation, they made it!
However, Chinese or Asian representation is far behind. Although in society or historically, we do/did not experience the same extent of racism, we are not making progress. The ’n’ word is taboo for non-blacks and semantically reclaimed, but depictions of takeaways, stereotypes, accents, the corner of eyes lifted up, jingles, an American song about Kung Fu fighting, these things are hurled at me and are racist. They are racist. It’s not funny, but people laugh because the prevalent attitude is that it’s funny. Sure, it’s fun to depict a Chinese or Nigerian accent if you're taking the mick out of your parents or you respect the culture etc. but because there isn’t respect in these depictions, it is racist. I feel like racism to Chinese people is not yet taboo in British culture or flagged as inappropriate. It’s still funny. I can’t be bothered to tolerate your ‘jokes’ any more, so PSA check yourself.