What’s your full name?
Tayshan Sami Hayden-Smith
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
What do you do for a living?
Teacher Assistant / Footballer.
What’s your ethnicity?
Jamaican/ Italian/ Egyptian / Kuwaiti.
How did your mum and dad meet?
Through mutual friends.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I personally had a very multicultural primary school that was accepting to all so I really enjoyed my years there.. but going to a public boarding school really did leave me feeling isolated. When I first got into the school I was made to cut all of my hair off because they said it was 'ostentatious' - I quote. I was racially abused blatantly and often, it was overlooked, I think, because I was a minority. Even though it was a select few who would be racially abusive, other children and even staff ignored opportunities to step in and try to prevent any further ignorant behaviour - it was generally discarded as 'banter.' Why people thought this behaviour was acceptable? I don't know.
Even though it was upsetting to me, that in this day and age people can be so ignorant, it made me want to know about my roots and where I came from. Even though technically what was happening was bullying, I didn't feel like a victim of bullying simply because I tried to understand why they behaved like this. I didn't ever react to it and I was very focused on achieving what I wanted to achieve so they wouldn't veer me from that. I was very much different - born and bred in London and mixed race...I sensed that they like different. In hindsight it definitely made me a lot stronger, wiser and conscious of myself and my surroundings.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
Not particularly, I was self conscious but never thought to change myself.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
When I was young my mum ensured that I was always educated on where I came from. I've visited all the countries I'm from and more.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
My mother is a beautiful, open, accepting person so yes, she did very much so! My dad was never around so I'd say my mum has done an amazing job raising 4 of us.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
"How many parents do you have?!"
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
I wish that people would take an interest in cultures that aren't necessarily related to them. Naturally as someone who is mixed race we tend to have contrasting cultures in our families which gives us more reason to explore and discover but I feel like it would be beneficial to try and understand all cultures even if we don't agree or relate to them.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
I think that being mixed race has become a trend in the eyes of many. I know a lot of black girls who have said they want to have children with a white man because they want a mixed race child. For me, your partner shouldn't be determined by their ethnicity or the fact that they will bring you mixed race children. I think that being mixed race partly symbolizes freedom as not long ago it was clear that people of white skin were not to mix with any other ethnic group but rather than looking at where mixed race comes from and the struggles and values of our source, we just look at how cute Kanye and Kim's children are and use that as a representation.
So I think ignorance stems from miseducation or no education and if we're looking at celebrities to represent where we come from and they're not exposing knowledge, there is no incentive for those who don't know to learn. Not that there should be an incentive to learn but people look up to celebrities like gods these days. All I'm saying is that there is misuse of the platform they have and I wouldn't say that they represent my values at all!
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 that racism is very reserved these days due to law and what is seen as acceptable. People may still have these thoughts and not verbalize them or act upon them. I think that people have had to accept that certain things have evolved and changed. It's definitely easier to be of colour and there is not so much of a divide but there is still a subconscious and conscious divide and we really do have to put a magnifying glass on it and try to approach the situation with love.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
I feel blessed. My contrasting cultures have blessed me with knowledge and it's different I guess..not to mention the good food!
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?
Not at all. I think due to the way my family are I've learnt to be all loving. I think that in other families maybe, contrasting religions lead to conflict, but every corner of my family aren't too religious so beliefs aren't so contrasting in that sense. Personally I have a hunger to learn and through knowing where/what/who/when/how I have put myself in the best position to love myself and my roots.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would definitely tell myself to take time out to self reflect and not to be so fast with my decisions.
Is there anything more you would like to say?