What’s your full name?
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in a seaside town in Devon called Paignton.
What do you do for a living?
I work in TV production for a broadcaster, and also manage their diversity initiatives.
What’s your ethnicity?
I am half Ethiopian, half white English.
How did your mum and dad meet?
My mum and dad met through work in Ethiopia when my dad was out there working for Medicin Sans Frontieres.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
Growing up somewhere so incredibly white, I think I always knew I was different. It was so visibly evident. But I almost couldn't work out why, because, sadly, I almost didn't see my race. My heritage wasn’t so visibly linked to my culture as all of my mum’s side of the family are still in Ethiopia, so I didn’t have anything tangible other than my mum and the colour of my skin.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Weirdly, I think that has only happened recently. When I was growing up, I was told by everyone around me that I was black, and so that’s what I was. I didn’t question it. There were lots of things that are intrinsically linked to my heritage and specifically my mum’s culture that should have made it evident to me that I was of mixed heritage, but I didn't connect the dots. So for example, I thought my mum was really strict, and people would tell me she was, but I thought that was just who she was rather than the fact that it had a lot to do with her heritage and cultural background.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
No, not at all. I don't think they acknowledged it, because they wanted to normalise it for me. But this may have been more of a hindrance than helpful as I was never made to feel confident in my differences and often they weren’t celebrated.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
That I’m just a lighty, and I’m too stoosh. That I think I am better than others because I am of mixed heritage. That I would have at least “been in the house”. That one probably gets me the most because ultimately yes I might have been kept in the house during slavery, but I still would have been a slave. That is not to suggest that people with a darker complexion have had the same experience as me, and yes there is a level of privilege I have as someone of mixed heritage but that phrase totally minimises my experiences, and I don’t think that it is fair.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
That the search for your identity is a difficult one. That idea that you don't have a strong community to fit into, you are a hybrid.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
That is a complicated one to answer. People of mixed black and white heritage are often represented in the media, but they are often used as the more palatable version of black. They are a way for productions to hit their diversity targets. But they won't define these individuals as having mixed heritage. They are always talked about as their non-white characteristic.
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?
There are two sides to this; I do think it is easier, I think it is easier to be of any race in a white man’s world. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. But I also think that with a more progressive society, it is less socially acceptable to be racist and so it has forced it to become something that is more subtle. Although with the state of the UK at the moment, there is a certain level of confidence coming from those with racist views.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
At different times in my life I have wished to be all black, or all white so that I would have a stronger sense of identity and belonging, but now I truly see it to be a blessing. I have a wonderful combination of two completely different cultures and experiences and I get the opportunity to learn every day from both sides.
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 didn’t understand it for a long time, but always felt like I didn’t fit it, but it wasn’t until I went to university and began to be surrounded by many more people of colour that I started to recognise my dual heritage. I don’t think I have to choose a side, but I do think I identify with my blackness and black people more just because there is an element of common ground with being othered and shared cultural values.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Being on the periphery of different groups is what makes you beautiful. Embrace it, be confident, don't let people define your happiness or worth. Try not to take on the world all the time, pick your battles, you’ll reach the top soon baby girl.