Mariam Shah

What’s your full name?

Mariam Shah.

How old are you?

19.

Where were you born/brought up?

Coventry.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a Psychology student and tutor.

What’s your ethnicity?

Moroccan and Indian.

How did your mum and dad meet?

Through mutual friends, my mum lived in London and my dad would drive down from Coventry every week to see her.

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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 as a kid I was conscious of being different, mostly because I didn’t go to the most diverse schools. When I was young my friends were interested in the different food my mum would make or the traditional clothes that I’d wear. For a while I really didn’t like being different and instead of embracing the different aspects of British, Indian and Moroccan culture, I felt embarrassed about sticking out. The impact of that experience for me now is having so much more gratitude and appreciation for aspects of my identity that I used to fear made me different. Even now when I visit my family in Morocco, I can tell that the locals see me as a foreigner and wouldn’t class me as Moroccan. But in reality, other people’s perceptions or choice to focus on what makes you different doesn’t always have to be a negative thing, it can start really interesting conversations and teach you something new.


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

Where I live there’s a big African-Asian community that my family are part of, but I hadn’t been introduced to a Moroccan community in the UK until I was about 13 when my uncle took us to a charity event that’d been set up in London. It made me so happy to feel integrated into and accepted by this whole new community that felt like a family away from home.

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

My parents let me adopt aspects of each culture that I was happy to and curious about. Both of them really embrace each other’s culture and neither of them are mixed race so I don’t think they ever saw a need to prepare me in a certain way. My dad was born in Malawi and then moved to England aged 12 and we’re still yet to visit India so for me there’s a weird kind of distance between understanding race and adopting it in a conventional way. But, I’m glad for it! I love watching home movies of my mum and dad jet-skiing towards a herd of hippos in lake Malawi. I feel kind of connected to all of these different places that I want to explore and learn about for myself.

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

When people make the judgement that someone doesn’t ‘count’ as being mixed race because they don’t fit their idealized version of being mixed race.

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

That everyone has their own understanding of identity. I’d hate to eventually have children who feel as though they have to justify being ¼ of a race. I want them to understand that being mixed doesn’t mean that a person is a ‘diluted’ version of what it truly means to be a certain race and they don’t have to ‘prove’ themselves to others.

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

I think you’d be surprised by the number of familiar faces seen in the media that are actually mixed race. But to me it seems like there’s a lack of representation in terms of these figures in the media being open about or discussing their experience of being mixed race. Trevor Noah is a really good example of a mixed race representative in the media who has an open dialogue about his experiences but is one of few.

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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’m surprised by the number of people that aren’t mixed race who have explained to me that they’d never think to actually have a family with someone of a different ethnicity followed by a series of justifications that in of themselves speak to a kind of subtle racism that may not be intentional but seem to be a manifestation of those early 20th century stigmatisations.


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

A blessing. I don’t know what life would be like without the influence so many different cultures.

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 definitely struggled with my identify, never having visited India or not being able to speak Moroccan puts me in a position that makes me feel like I need to constantly justify who I am. There’s a common conflict between being too British to fit into an Indian or Moroccan community but by no means being British enough to fit into a white community. But then again, I’ve figured why try to fit in? I’ve always been catergorised as Asian and constantly tried to justify that I am also Arab. Rather than picking a side I think I’ll always feel as though one has already been chosen for me. So self-acceptance has come from understanding that it’s not these things or other people’s opinions that define you. Engaging in discussions about race, identity and representation and seeking out platforms like this have helped me to learn not only about my own mixed race identity but others experiences too!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Believe in yourself, be yourself and don’t stress!

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