Nina Robinson

What’s your full name?

Nina Robinson

How old are you?

25

Where were you born/brought up?

Newcastle-under-Lyme, near Stoke-on-Trent

What do you do for a living?

Marketing for a music university.

What’s your ethnicity?

Mixed: Black Caribbean and White Italian/Hungarian.

How did your mum and dad meet?

Tae Kwon Do class in Nottingham.

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How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?

I think I’ve been aware of it for as long as I can remember, being from a town where nearly everyone is white and not used to different cultures. It had a huge impact on me because I grew up wanting to look like everyone around me and was never able to. I always felt like the odd one out.

 

 

Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?

Desperately. I hated my hair and longed for straight, long silky hair like all the other girls, so I got it chemically straightened which ended up damaging it majorly!

Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.

I’ve always been aware of being different, and have never felt like I fully fit in with white people or black people. When I was about 15, a boy I fancied in school said he didn’t fancy me “because I was black”, and growing up around situations like that made me feel like white is seen as attractive and anything else isn’t. I’m growing out of that mindset as I get older, especially as I now live in multicultural London, but childhood mindsets are hard to shift!

Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?

I don’t think anything can prepare you for life as a mixed race person because it’s not that black and white (no pun intended!), there are lots of grey areas. Both my parents are very British and the cultures of their heritages don’t really make an appearance, so I was raised with an entirely British culture. I think this helped with my sense of belonging, but maybe didn’t help my sense of how others see me and expect me to ‘be’.

What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?

I really hate what terms like ‘coconut’ or ‘oreo’ imply; that I’m “black on the outside and white on the inside”. First of all, what is ‘acting white’? Are you saying I’m ‘acting British’ and that I should be acting something other than British, even though I am British? Secondly, what is ‘acting black’ and how do you propose I do this, because I’m not sure how? Ignorance.

What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?

That our feelings, experiences and opinions of being mixed race are valid and important, even if non-mixed people can’t relate to them. Also, that when you call a mixed-race person “black”, you are dismissing any white (or other ethnic) side of them, which can offend some people!

Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?

I haven’t paid much conscious attention to this, but I think anyone would know that they’re not as well represented as white people/families. Mixed race women in music videos and songs are fetishised, which is a problem. The situation overall is improving however, so that’s positive.

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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 a bit of both, in some ways. Younger generations are much more accepting and used to different types of people than older generations because of growing diversity, so in that way it seems as though it’s easier to be mixed race now than before. I think racism over time hasn’t lessened that much, only taken a different form that is more unspoken, insular and less obvious, seeping into society through the lack of representation/exposure of ethnic minorities in the media. People also seem to be more scared to bring up the subject of race which in itself can make people feel alienated.

 

Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?

I think both are strong words, so neither. It’s definitely presented me with challenges but it’s also made me into a stronger person in lots of ways.

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 never felt like I’ve needed or wanted to pick a side because I don’t identify fully with either ‘side’, but people have described me as “basically being white” because I don’t exude what people would think of as stereotypical black-cultural behaviour. I think I’m almost at peace with who I am but still have some way to go.  

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t straighten your hair! Learn all the tips and tricks needed to keep it healthy in its natural state.

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