Mixed-race Britain: Readers’ stories
Barbara Mitra, in the red hat at the front, remembers a loving family
6 October 2011 Last updated at 10:23
George Alagiah’s account of his mixed marriage and the change in attitudes towards mixed-race people in the UK provoked a flurry of emails.
The status of mixed-race Britons has been transformed, he says in the article. Readers sent in tales of love across divides, and finding unexpected acceptance.
Here are some of their stories:
As a mixed female (Anglo-Chinese), I have never experienced any real abuse, except the occasional name calling. People have generally always been kind and judged me according to my character rather than how I looked or what my ethnicity was. Britain has always prided itself for its tolerance compared with some other countries, and I think that all races should be grateful, or at least be mindful of that, when living on these shores.
Tanya, Ilford, UK
I am 44 years of age and have an Indian (Hindu) father and an Irish (Catholic) mother. My mother was from a small rural area in Eire, and when my dad went to visit before the wedding he had cars stopping to look at him. They had three people at their wedding. Both sides of the family tried to persuade them not to marry. I grew up in the East End of London where my parents chose to live and was a teenager in the 80s – and remember skinheads being around quite a lot. My parents were (are – they are still alive) fantastic parents – and actually, thinking about it they must have been a bit rebellious to have married each other and to not conform to the norms that were expected of them.
Barbara Mitra, Worcester, Worcestershire
I was born in the late 70s, and spent the first part of my childhood in a small town in the Midlands. I think I was the only mixed-race child in the area, and there were only two other children from ethnic minorities in the school. There was racist teasing, but it was for the most part innocent, and not so much that I couldn’t cope. I had a good number of friends from different class backgrounds. Teachers often tried to get me to make friends with the only other Asian in the school, perhaps thinking that our colour would give us something in common. I didn’t mind as she was nice and I found her family fascinating, but it was of course totally unlike my unconventional and liberal home.
My father was not in touch with his family or culture and hasn’t been back for over 30 years, whereas my Scottish mother was very in touch with her roots. I don’t speak his native language, and only have an educated tourist’s understanding of that country. It might be nice to be bilingual, but I’m very happy to be British and don’t feel like I’ve missed out.
Anita, Canterbury, Kent
While the majority of people I have come across seem to be tolerant, if not completely accepting, of mixed-race individuals, there are a few who still don’t understand that being mixed-race does not make that person confused about their heritage. Being mixed-race myself, there are still a large amount of people I have come across who still do not seem to understand that people who are mixed-race do not have to only identify with one part of their heritage. People still do not appreciate that being mixed-race is an ethnicity in itself and that we do not have to identify with one background more than the other.
Maddison King, Liverpool
Paul and Joy’s children have never faced problems
My husband is a World War II “brown baby”, born 1944. He was raised in orphanages. He didn’t face much discrimination because of his colour, but it must have been there because when he was little he’d try to scrub his colour off whilst in the bath. I’m from the States, where at the time we married in 1979, if we lived there rather than London, we would have had to live in the slums because we wouldn’t have been accepted by better neighbourhoods. My children, who never have a problem with being mixed-race, in the States would be labelled “African-American”. Here they are simply “British”.
I am 21 now, and although being mixed race in London and Birmingham is definitely not uncommon, I constantly had to battle with my identity, about where to fit in. In my school there was a large black and white community, and while it was not segregated, they tended to associate amongst themselves. I was brought up by my white father when my parents split up, and therefore I felt more affinity with the white mannerisms and culture than the black one.
Yet I still felt apart from the white community, because I knew what oxtail was, my hair was curly and I couldn’t fit it into the same styles as they did, and a general awareness which they did not have of black Caribbean culture.
It pleased me to read this article, as it goes a long way to reaffirming my sense of identity in being mixed-race, and being proud of my dual heritage…
Peter Warwick, Lincoln, United Kingdom
As a baby Moira was not allowed in her grandmother’s house
In the 1950s, my paternal grandmother refused to allow my father in her house with me, a newborn. The sin – my mother was supposedly only half Irish – even though her father was a Patrick Kelly. Some 20 years later I went through dreadful anguish telling my family I was marrying a non-Catholic – albeit in a Catholic church.
Moira, Farnborough, Hampshire
My mother is white and my father is black from the West Indies. I was born in 1967 in Manchester and grew up mostly in inner-city Liverpool on a council estate. My three older siblings were white. I was the first mixed-race child in the family. My mother’s family did not really ever accept me and I did not meet my father’s until I was in my late teens. The sense of rejection, not fitting in, was heavy at times. I left home at 17, qualified as a barrister and practise law in London.
Joshua Grant-Garwood, London
I’m the pale half of a mixed marriage – my wife being of Asian heritage. The only hassle we’ve ever had was back when we first met and some “brave” young Asian men shouted abuse at us from a moving car as we walked down Brick Lane where I lived at the time. Living now in rural Somerset we encounter no prejudice but the kids have had some issues at school with childish name calling and the like. We acted on these in concert with the school as soon as we found out and have nipped it in the bud. When we go abroad, especially to southern Europe or Turkey, the kids blend in and are often taken for natives and again we’ve not encountered any overt racism or prejudice. Amongst my friends there are three mixed couples so it doesn’t feel like anything special or unique.
Jeremy Hartley, Cheddar, UK
When my sister was 18, she had an Afro-Caribbean boyfriend. Our white working class father simply beat her up and kicked her out onto the street. Her boyfriend later got a Cambridge degree but my sister’s life was reduced to misery. I am glad things are different now.
Viv Endecott says people often failed to understand the idea of being mixed-race
As a teenager in the 1970s it seemed that mixed didn’t count – the only two colours were black or white. I resented what I saw as a sort of black imperialism, where black seemed to trump white, because according to some black rights activists if you weren’t white you HAD to be black… and the thing they couldn’t bear was a happy mixed person in a white family!
I was brought up in my mother’s white family in rural Dorset. I’ve met nasty spiteful racism, and I’ve concluded that whilst colour prejudice is totally irrational, cultural differences can be of concern because anti-racists can themselves become racist!
Viv Endecott, Poole, Dorset