I couldn’t help attending this talk. I’m not personally mixed race, but I hope one day to be the mother of so called “mixed race” children. I approached this event with a lot of questions in my mind, as well as curiosity.
Emma Dabiri, a gorgeous Irish Nigerian sociologist and PhD researcher, hosted the session. Speakers with her were the British Jamaican artist Phoebe Collings-James, Irish Ghanaian singer Yvonne Beney and Maltese Libyan consultant Sanita Canola.
They all shared their experiences about being mixed race – term they don’t like because it implies the concept of “race”; using the term means labeling straight away, thing they don’t want to do.
They all have different experiences, but share some points. Within the household they never noticed their parents’ different colors, it was the normality. They didn’t really know what “mixed race” means. The problem came from outside: school, friends, work. When people look at them, they instantly tend to judge. They also had issues about where to belong: one culture, the other, both or none of them? People from the two different cultures don’t fully recognize them as part of their group. Sanita said that there is a lot of complexity in coming from mixed heritages: it can be really exciting at some times, but very lonely at others. Phoebe introduced the idea of exoticism: “Everyone calls me exotic. What am I, a mango?” The added value of being mixed race is the positive experience of being more understanding and thoughtful on how to approach life.
For the second part of the session, they organized a workshop. The audience split in different groups to talk about different concerns about being mixed race: we talked about hair, learning from both cultures, the pressure on choosing a partner, the sense of belonging, how to be a mixed race child’s parent, the acceptance of themselves, the fact that mixed race is not only black, the issue of being discriminated.
A lady from the audience said “I remember when ‘Other’ was the only box I could tick.”
The audience was formed from a lot of different personalities, cultures and heritages. The session finished too soon and left me with the will of talking and talking and talking and asking and talking again.
I had the chance to share some thoughts with Yvonne (whose hair is amazing!) and quickly ask to Emma her website. She gave me her twitter account @TheDiasporaDiva and her blog address: http://thediasporadiva.tumblr.com/.
(Unfortunately, at the beginning of the session Emma asked to turn off our phones, so I didn’t have the chance to take pictures!)