A community of shared experience is a shared identity. I spoke to some of my fellow mixed race sistas about embracing their mixed heritage.
Jasmine from London, a fellow mixed race sista, describes her experience of growing up with her White Irish mum in South London:
“Mixed children are so much more included [now] but there is still a lot more to be done. Curly hair products were non-existent [back then]. I had to use hair products designed for black hair, which weighed my hair down. No shade of foundation or blusher matched my skin tone, no dolls of color to play with. Until Sister Sister came on, the only mixed girl I saw on mainstream [television] was Mel B!” Jasmine also points out, “I feel we were still lucky as we didn’t grow up in complete isolation in London. I always felt sad for mixed people I met who were the only brown child in the village, so to speak.”
Also growing up in South London, I was surrounded by others who looked like me, and could share similar cultural identities. I was comfortable in an environment of mixed races and cultures blending together. However, the everyday needs in terms of hair and makeup was a journey. I can’t count how many times I had to switch up products as eventually, my texture was too European for the products my sister or cousins used. My brother could use Dax on his hair, mine hung limp if I tried. *sigh*. Our house was a mélange of hair products, Single Bible, Dax, Pink Lusters, Motions, VO5, Pantene and we could not interchange. Across all my siblings we had all products covered! My mother would send us to our black aunt to get our hair plaited and laid! My mother recognized her limitations and opened her world to the skills and beauty of others in order to help her two mixed daughters see their beauty.
Sasha, another mixed sista from London, reflects on what she wished she knew when growing up; “I wish I knew that the idea of fixed racial boundaries was toxic and actually violently oppressive. I wish I knew that you don’t have to be anything other than you are. It is natural and proper to relate and connect with multiple cultural and racial influences that weave their way through your life, history and blood. It isn’t football, you don’t have to pick a side.”
Yes, mixed race people do experience racism. Sasha shared her experience with me, “ I definitely experienced my own share of racial biases and racism, e.g. texturism, hyper sexualization from a young age, the “she thinks she’s too nice” comments and bullying from mainly black women. BUT, it is important to recognize that as painful as my experiences have been, they are not comparable to the lived experience of a darker skinned black [woman].”
Let’s sit with this for a moment. It may be uncomfortable to give voice to this or acknowledge it, yet acknowledge it we must. Within the black and brown community, we have been divided by the racist construct of colorism. It continues to weaken, divide and confuse worldwide in many communities. However, Sasha beautifully expressed her respectful compassion and deep understanding of the struggle of others, particularly black women, who are our cousins, aunts and friends, resulting in her privilege.
“I see it like we are all travelling in a vehicle that has been hit by the white supremist machine that governs most of the systems we operate within. In real life, if I was in a car crash and I got whiplash, but my sister/cousin/friend etc was literally bleeding out, when the paramedics arrive, it wouldn’t be about my injury. It is important to recognize that as a mixed race person, it does bring privilege and a milder experience of racism. It is important to hold space for your darker skinned loved ones and make room to elevate and support them always.”
This imperfect world has created a divide to conquer for purposes ungodly and out of sync with our original purpose. We were made to expand, to cover this earth made up of people in God’s image. An image, not of one superior tone, race or culture, but of an inanimate image. An image of Love. Part of that journey for me is recognizing how others have long been placed at the bottom of a man made food chain of hate. Recognizing that, yes, I may have had a struggle too, as a mixed race black woman, but that mine exists because of the continuous and insidious oppression of others. Love moves me to take a step back and allow the voice of another to be heard first. Love moves me to hold a microphone to their words and step aside at times. Love moves me to love myself first in order to magnify the love in others.
My last piece contains 10 tips in embracing your mixed heritage and celebrating yourself!