I love being mixed race. I always have done. But I have also always felt mixed up to be mixed race.
There’s a part of me that struggles with being mixed race or ‘dual heritage.’
Especially at times like Chinese New Year. I so love celebrating the occasion, with my family and now my own children, but there’s also a part of me that feels very distant from the culture I’m celebrating.
Growing up, I went to Chinese School on some weekends where we learnt Cantonese and took part in activities. And whilst I loved and embraced this whole other world outside of ‘normal’ school, I also felt like I did not fit in. I didn’t speak Chinese at home and I only saw my ‘full’ Chinese family every other year in Malaysia. I also didn’t look completely Chinese.
I am not ‘full’ Chinese but I am also not ‘full’ English. But I am a whole ‘full’ person.
When I went to ‘normal’ school during the week I experienced quite a lot of racism. I didn’t mind people asking me on the bus if I was related to martial artist Jackie Chan or chef Ken Hom – although I thought it was odd.
But I did mind at school being taunted by bullies about being ‘moon faced’ or ‘flat faced’ or having slightly “slitty” eyes.
I felt confused. In my day-to-day life I was trying to justify my differences and I just wanted to fit in. And yet I felt I had a whole other part of me, a race that I wanted to connect with.
I am always ‘Other – mixed’ on forms
I don’t fit into any one box in society and I am proud of that, as I also want my daughters to embrace their own uniqueness.
However, it is also important to address your differences and celebrate them!
My diversity has helped me in the workplace and in life generally.
I decided to study Chinese mandarin again when I was in sixth form because I was fed up of not knowing what people were saying at the Chinese events I went to. It also meant that I could correct bullies when they made stereotypical Chinese sounds at me.
Although I copped out of studying Chinese at university as it would mean living in China for a year and I was scared, being tall and curvy, that I would stick out of a place I so desperately wanted to fit in to. Instead, I studied Italian and Philosophy so it wasn’t as painful.
Some people don’t know how to cope with mixed race people
I was so glad when Myleene Klass appeared on Popstars TV show as she made me look ‘cool.’ We have a similar ‘mix’ and people could see a likeness between us so I felt like I started to fit in. Although I was still asked if we were related… sadly not.
The weirdest thing I have found about being mixed race is that there are some guys who go searching for a ‘mixed race’ or oriental girl. Like some kind of fetish!
The other thing I have found is that I have had to stick up for most non-white races. This is due to the fact I don’t look ‘full’ English, according to many. So I have been called every name under the sun from “Paki” to a “refugee stealing my kids jobs.”
I’ve heard it all. I learn to laugh it off. And when those people ask so “where are you from?!”
I simply reply that “I’m a Yorkshire lass.” I don’t mind being open and honest about my heritage but there are some people who are looking for an argument or to make comment.
It does however make me sympathise with certain ethnic minorities who must have to put up with so much crap daily.
And no I’m not good at maths.
That’s just one of the many assumptions people have expressed over the years. I’ve always struggled at maths despite my oriental blood. And find it hilarious when people think I’ll work harder because of my background. Yes I work hard but that’s because I’m a workaholic it is not defined by my ethnicity.
More mixed race families
Over the years I have noticed a rise in mixed race families so I know I am not alone. And hopefully people will stop ‘seeing’ difference and just become used to it.
Yes, there are often conflicts with my identity and I guess I’m not sure where I fit in most. But the most important thing for me and others, especially mixed race children, is that their home is loving and open to a range of cultures and debate is encouraged.
I feel very lucky to have been brought up with two very different cultures.
And we want our children to continue to embrace their own diversity whatever that might be – sexuality, race, gender, ability, preferences…
But to do this we need to try and listen and understand one another rather than make assumptions and pass down stereotypes.
This will then allow us all to use our uniqueness to be happy and successful as we’re being true to ourselves.
Growing up I had a recurring dream where I would walk down my attic stairs and open my bedroom door out on to green hills (I was brought up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire), I would then walk over the hills and down again where I would step into a Chinese market place and I would go shopping (I love shopping in Malaysia!) but I couldn’t speak to anyone and nobody could understand me.
My dream meant a lot to me as it represents how I feel. But I am feeling more comfortable with my own identity as I grow older and that stems from having a strong, open home – yes my family and I tick a lot of ‘other’ boxes but to us we are just human beings all striving for happiness.
As Mama Cass sang: “Make your own kind of music, sing your own special song even if nobody else sings along…”