What’s your full name?
Niomí Eve O’Rourke.
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in London. I lived in England until I was 12 and then moved to Northern Ireland. When I was 18 I moved back to London to go to university.
What do you do for a living?
I work as a piano teacher, run a label for BAME women called Galang as well as making and releasing my own music.
What’s your ethnicity?
I’m half Pakistani half Irish.
How did your mum and dad meet?
I think they met through mutual friends in London. My Dad fixed my mum’s earring apparently.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I don’t remember an exact age but I think once my family moved out of London when I was about 4 I probably started to notice I was different. I didn’t find out until later but I was initially denied entry from my local school when we moved. I think there was probably an unconscious perception that things would be more difficult for me.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
I have a memory at school of a friend telling me my blood was black and not red like white people’s.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
My mum used to read a lot of books by writers of colour which she’d pass on to me and I think she instilled in me from a young age that there was beauty in not being white and other stories that I could engage with that I wouldn’t have been exposed to normally.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
I don’t like the idea people have of mixed race people not being legitimately non white - a ‘coconut’ or ‘Malteaser’. Like brown on the outside and white on the side.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
I wish people wouldn’t fetishise it. I cringe when I hear people talking about how cute mixed race babies are.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
Not as much as they could be. I don’t think the specific experience of being mixed race is explored very often.
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?
In my opinion, racism is definitely much more subtle. I used to work in catering at large events and anyone black or brown was put in the back whilst white staff were front of house. Even though we live in a systematically racist society, it isn’t talked about. It’s denied and swept under the rug. I think speaking about subtle forms of racism people experience everyday can be difficult but ultimately there needs to be a dialogue for things to change.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
Being born without a specific racial identity has been a blessing ultimately. You’re already outside the box or the norm so you apply that to the rest of your life. I think that’s definitely a positive.
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?
100% yes. I struggle with the fact that I can’t speak Urdu and that I’ve never visited Pakistan though I’m often visually identified as South Asian. I also struggle with identifying as Irish. I don’t look or sound it, so its as if I don’t have a claim to either culture. I work on coming to peace with this by knowing identity doesn’t live in binaries and actually I don’t have to choose a side.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Its ok to call out racism and talk about race.