* warning: mentions of sexual violence in this feature
What’s your full name?
I am Maiya Michelle on the gram!
How old are you?
I’ve juuuuuust turned 28!
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in Birmingham, but also grew up in Brighton and Sheffield. They all feel like places that hold parts of me.
What do you do for a living?
I work as a therapist treating anxiety and depression at the moment and am going on to train as a clinical psychologist this autumn which is really exciting!
What’s your ethnicity?
I’m half English, half Jamaican.
How did your mum and dad meet?
I think they met on some unfortunate party scene, which ended in my father raping my mum and her becoming pregnant with me.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I think when I moved from a majority non-white nursery in Birmingham to a vastly majority white school in Brighton and started to experience racism. My approach was to write a mini book about it when I was 7 and I still have that to this day - it’s jokes and cute.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Kids started saying that my mum wasn’t my mum because she was white.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
This is a confusing one and I wrote a long thing about it recently… kind of in the sense that she really tried to prepare me for combating racism but I think I’d have really appreciated some earlier teaching on whiteness and white privilege.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
I mean I’m not sure its entirely unique to mixed-race people but I feel like the “where are you really from?” is particularly annoying.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
I guess that whilst it can all just sound like moaning, it can be really hard to grow up with so many of the realities of racism whilst not fully feeling like you’re “enough” of either half to be hurt because you’re supposed to just accept that you have it so much easier.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
Ummm it feels like we kind of are these days, but then again the fact that I notice it so much and it makes me smile so much when I see it probably means that we aren’t.
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?
For me, I experience racism as anti-blackness, which is obviously live and kicking. I don’t doubt that it’s a HELL OF A LOT easier than in the 19th/20th century but I still grew up with racism throughout my childhood, I’ve still been called a n***a in the street and underground in London and had a boss comment on my hair being done properly for work when straightened so....yeh it’s still long but I don’t think we live in the same day-to-day fear.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
I couldn’t possibly put it in the category of either, it just is what it is, but I’m perfectly happy with who I am racially, so it’s definitely not a bad thing.
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 think I have yes; I grew up with mainly white friends, a white mum, aunt and grandmother and I did kind of long for a Jamaican parent that would give me some kind of rights to my roots. But I always had my brother, cousins and Jamaican aunt and as I found my communities in my twenties, that insecurity has slipped away. It can still feel a bit kind of embarrassing to feel a lack of cultural references when I’m with lots of black people though.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop wasting so much time straightening your damn hair so often when you like it curly anyway!!