What’s your full name?
Paul Joseph Harper (everyone calls me PJ)
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
What do you do for a living?
I study fine art- sculpture and work in a cafe part-time.
What’s your ethnicity?
1/4 Afro Caribbean and 3/4 white British.
How did your mum and dad meet?
In a bar in Glasgow (my mum came from Manchester to visit her friend in Glasgow that evening).
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
Only really quite recently maybe 17-18. People initially see white when the see me but when they find out about my background it soon makes sense.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
No, my mum always kept my hair short, so I didn’t have curly hair till I was about 13, and all I wanted was an Afro. I’d comb my hair all the time teasing it out till it was pretty huge. I had to eventually cut it due to strangers touching and grabbing it.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
My mum came to pick me up from nursery and upon arrival was greeted by one of the caretakers and when asked who’s child she was picking up the caretaker said “you must be the nanny” and my mum replied “no, I’m the mummy”. This is the kind of encounter we have had to deal with most of our lives.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Definitely, I feel like a lot of knowledge has been passed down from my mum, I’ve learned so much from her experiences it has really shaped my outlook on the world.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
“Half-caste, Quarter-caste, Quadroon, mulatto. You honestly think these words wouldn’t come up nowadays.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
Don’t treat us differently because of our background. We are all just people like you. Racial mixing has been going on for so long stop acting like it’s a new trend.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
More so in the UK than in the US. Black is always paired with black and white with white in almost every situation. It’s just not always the case. And there’s so many mixed race people I wish they would stop acting like it’s taboo.
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 nowadays, hearing from my mum's horrendous past experiences in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but with modern times comes other ways and platforms for people to be discriminated against. although I am speaking from my experience as a white passing mixed race person so I am not faced with the same inequalities as other more visibly mixed race people are.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
A blessing definitely. I am so proud of my background.
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?
Yeah - I’ve grown up in a mainly white environment, although I have a black grandfather and mother I always just thought of myself as white but to call myself white would show a total disregard to my black ancestors who I am so proud of. Finding out about history and others experiences really opens your eyes and makes you understand. The only way to get people to understand is through education.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t hold back. The only person that is responsible for what you do is you.
Is there anything more you'd like to say?
I’d just like to say that the Halu Halo project is such an amazing platform to show the experiences of mixed race people and issues that surround our lives. It is so important to talk and share our experiences because we are not always fed this information on a day to day basis even though it affects so many.