What’s your full name?
Fiona Jones (I didn’t stay at the Catholic church long enough to pick a middle name...)
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
Born and raised in Inverurie (a small town in the North East of Scotland) currently living in Glasgow.
What do you do for a living?
I work for BBC Three’s digital team.
What’s your ethnicity?
I’m not entirely sure on my Dad’s side (he has very dark skin and a few European features) but he’s technically Welsh ... my Mother is Filipino. I consider myself mixed race.
How did your mum and dad meet?
My Mother grew up in a small village in the Philippines and coincidentally met a priest who was out there doing some sort of missionary work. He was from Austria and invited my Mum and Auntie the opportunity to work there (I’m not entirely sure how accurate that part is haha) - my Mum speaks 5 languages so she was able to get a job in the Tourism industry once she was out there. My Dad was a Naval Submariner and spent much of his time travelling. They met in Austria, my dad had originally met my Auntie first, who introduced him to my Mum.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I was a bit of a weird kid regardless of the multicultural background, I think people were going to think of me as “different” regardless. My earliest memory was of someone in primary school talking about how they had never been on a plane - to which I asked, “but how do you see your family?”. I must have been about 7 years old.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
I didn’t really understand the whole “mixed race” thing when I was younger, I assumed you had to pick a side. I identified as Filipino for most of my childhood, I was the only person (aside from my brother) in my school who wasn’t white so although I’m definitely light-skinned in the grand scheme of things, I was basically considered “foreign” by my peers. I don’t think I was aware of having the option to identify as “mixed” until I met someone, my age, who was darker than me. My Mum introduced me to her friend’s daughter - of whom both her parents were Filipino and I remember thinking we were similar but I definitely didn’t look like she did, sound like she did or had the same family/home life as she did. I must have been about 10-12 years old when this happened. I realised I was caught in this grey area of ethnicity.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
I thought puberty was when I would turn white! I had this confidence that I would just change into a blonde haired, blue eyed princess as soon as I hit about 12/13 years old. My Mum cut my eyelashes when I was a baby in the hopes they would grow longer, she would pinch my nose to make it more pointy and would pull on my legs so I would be taller - I completely forgive her for doing those things, I understand that she would have had internalised thoughts about what “beauty” is and I know she acted on it simply because she wanted better for me - but it did give me a complex. My friend once - very innocently - gave me talcum powder because I used to talk about wanting white skin - my Mum was like wtf have you done!
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
My dad is surprisingly conservative and a little problematic when it comes to race - he believes assimilation is a good thing (which I guess in certain circumstances it is) but because of that we never discussed race, culture, racism etc. My Mum was probably so swept up in her kids being “Western” and taking up all the benefits that came with it that she never really discussed being Filipino. They always meant well but I do wonder if things could have been different. I think the closest I knew about being mixed race from them was when I would need their guidance to fill out forms and the dreaded “What Ethnicity Are You?” tick box would appear.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
I’ve been compared to mixing different dog breeds which really annoys me. People make jokes about my Mum being a mail order bride. When people say I’m more *insert one half of race here* than *insert other half of race here* - it always changes depending on whether I’m talking to white people or POC - both answers annoy me equally. That I can’t identify with my Filipino culture because I wasn’t born there or haven’t lived there - I hate that.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
I can identify myself however I want to. Racism affects me too.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
I think visually it’s quite popular to depict a multicultural family however there’s rarely discussion/themes/storylines that reflect us.
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?
Racism is alive and well, I don’t think it’s more subtle. The hardest part for me is navigating conversations about race - 90% of the time the people I speak to always agree on the outcome of absolute equality of the races BUT will rarely acknowledge or explore the systematic racist structure that they benefit from daily. They simply don’t wanna know about it.
I worry about the fetishisation of being “mixed race”. I’ve tried finding groups online to have discussions (similar to this) only to find people posting pictures of their “cute” kids/babies - most of the time from white mothers. It’s so weird. Since race is such a hot topic right now I am finding that people feel more entitled to discuss my existence than before, even those who mean well often end up making assumptions or talking at me.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
I love myself, it’s been a journey but I absolutely adore being mixed race.
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 struggled with my identity when I was younger, but I really embraced “being different”. I was quite happy being the “different” one and I applied it to my behaviour/personality, I was very fun and zany as a kid and I guess that’s how I justified the label - I tried not to think about race as I just assumed it would go away. As I got older I went through my awkward teenage phase and I think I just hated EVERYTHING about my appearance. It took going to Uni, being in the city, witnessing diversity first hand and actively looking for similar people that I began to truly embrace myself. I speak about the Philippines and my Mum’s upbringing constantly with her and our family trips home mean much more to me. I’m 25 now, but the growth from leaving school to now has been remarkable.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be hard on your Mum, love her, ask her questions, be patient. People will one day pay a lot of money to look like you. You are far smarter, more creative and beautiful than you give yourself credit for!
Is there anything more you would like to say?
Learning about my heritage has made me a little bit bitter about race - I’m always the first to pipe up if something seems unfair. I’ve also grown to be incredibly fond and protective of my Mother, perhaps to make up for the fact I was probably embarrassed of her when I was younger (in an attempt to fit in). I hope she knows how proud I am of her and my heritage.