The Perception of Traits

Being mixed raced, it goes without saying that I share traits from both my white & black relatives, and it’s common place for everything about me to be classified as one or the other, but never both.

This has it’s advantages sometimes, and I find myself having conversations with all sorts of people from all walks of life, but my difficulty comes from when others try to classify my traits for me, as there’s usually an undertone that bubbles to the surface in one way or another.

The Battle

The biggest challenge being mixed raced is that my white mum and my black dad have always had somewhere to truly call home, where they’re a part of a majority and feel comfortable in their surroundings without judgement somewhere in the world. For me, I don’t have this place. A place like that simply doesn’t exist for people like me. It’s a fact of life, and it’s hard to go anywhere in the world without feeling judged because you can guarentee it’ll happen at some point. This could be a simple trip to the shops or a far-away destination, but ultimately it feels the same, and sometimes it can swallow any other good feelings you have in that moment.

I once heard a quote on TV by a British Muslim which resinates with me greatly, and I can’t find a better description than this. I’ve adapted the quote slightly to fit my situation, but the sentiment is the same.

“My home is the plane I take to any destination. I walk around in the UK all my life and people call me black, but then I go to the Caribbean to see my family for the first time in a while and everyone starts calling me ‘white boy’.”

You may laugh and be surprised, but I geniunely receive as many stereotypical comments or misconceptions about me in the Caribbean as I do here. So much so, that my brother and sister switch their dialect (not accents, more on that in a later post!) depending on who they’re speaking to so that they can fit in. Common comments include:

  • You’re so white!
  • White boy, have you met the Queen?

Most ironically, it may be common place in Brexit Britain to hear “they come over here and take all of our jobs”, but this doesn’t bother me as much as you’d expect even though some ignorant people include me in this phrase. The reason is because I hear exactly the same in the Caribbean!

It’s common place for Anguillian’s culture to be focussed on sunshine and happiness, and owners of private jets, large hotels, and other leasure activities we enjoy here can be mostly owned by people from countries where the majority of the population are white, oriental, or middle eastern.

With this, my white mum who has lived there for 10 years fits into this stereotype, and reverse racism exists.

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, my point here is to clearly highlight that racism isn’t a ‘white’ trait or ‘white’ problem, this happens across the whole world, and it’s my job to tell you both sides of the story.

In the interest of fairness, let me tell you a little about the people of Anguilla. They are the most friendly and loving people you’ll ever meet, and it’s difficult to be unhappy there unless it starts raining as you open the door in your swimsuit ready to head to one of the many golden beaches that the island has to offer. People will also actively de-prioritise what they’re doing and go out of their way to make sure you’re having a great time, and Anguillians are proud of their island. This can be overwhelming at first, especially if you were on the London Underground the day before heading to the airport where it is forbidden to even look at someone, let alone talk!

Why Does Trait Classification Annoy Me?

Being born in the UK, since I can remember there has always been a reminder of my traits being different. People won’t tell you your hair looks nice, they’ll just simply point out that they’ve never seen an afro before and proceed to touch without being prompted, or, they’ll put their arm next to yours and comment on the darkness of your skin as if it’s a competition. These start to happen when you’re in school, and surprisingly they don’t disappear as you move into adulthood either.

I’m now 29, and this happens every single damn day, and to be honest I’m so tired of it. The examples below are things I’ve heard about someone else or have been said to me, and this doesn’t even touch the surface.

  • You can’t swim? You must be black.
  • What do you mean you don’t like chicken? You can’t possibly be black.
  • Pick him to run the relay race, he’s black so he can run fast.
  • Can you believe he likes Take That? He’s so white.
  • You’ve never smoked? Not even tried one puff? C’mon you must have tried weed – How can you possibly be black?
  • You speak so white when you’re on the phone to work.
  • You have a degree? That’s the white in you.

Read those examples again, and you’ll start to realise that all of the pessemistic comments are associated with how black you are, and a comment on success is associated with how white you are. Don’t be fooled either, these comments come from people on both sides, frequently.

Through my life so far, I’ve noticed that the ‘black’ traits seemed to be commented on more when I was younger in comparison to ‘white’ traits that people seem to comment on more frequently now that I’m fulfilling a rather successful career.

Why do we attribute success to being ‘white’, and what is it about a ‘black’ trait that means you’re any less successful?

I don’t have the answer to this question, but this is something that is alive and kicking in society, and mixed raced people receive double the amount of stereotypes when it comes to traits.

I promised I’d stay politically neutral, and it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with their policies, it is fundamentally wrong to see so many trolls online claiming that Sajid David, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, and Sadiq Khan are (what’s referred to as) coconuts. I will not comment on my views on these individuals either way, but even more shockingly is that these comments come mostly from people of colour!

We can’t expect equality if people of colour decide when racism is acceptable. If it’s demeaning and it’s in context of skin colour, it is racism. Most importantly, you can’t say it just because you’re the same colour either.

There will be some people of colour that are angry with me for this, but I don’t care. I’m sitting here trying to make for a better world for my family where barely a day goes by without us thinking about the fact that we’re different. I simply cannot claim that it’s not OK for my white friend to say this but it’s OK for my black friend.

I’m a Hypocrite

The other promise I made is to be completely honest and open, and with that, I am completely hypocritical on this subject.

One of the reasons I started this blog is to reflect and learn on my own experiences. In my own mind, it is perfectly acceptable to classify my own traits as white & black. I don’t know why, it’s just something I’ve always done. I consider my work life ‘white’ and my home life ‘black’.

This isn’t right, and I am no better or worse of a person because of a particular trait – I shouldn’t have two different buckets for all of my traits, I shouldn’t have (what is effectively) two personalities, and neither should you.

If a white friend doesn’t like chicken, everyone agrees or disagrees whether they like chicken and move on, and not a single person around the table discusses where they land on the ‘white’ scale. Likewise, Anguilla doesn’t have a barometer on how likely their fully black residents are, or are not, likely to meet the Queen.

When you say it like this it all sounds so ridiculous, and almost childish, so why do we accept it when the person is a different race?

What I would love to know is whether I’m truly accepting the classification of having white & black traits, or whether I accept this because there is a reference most days of the week and it’s just ‘normal’ for me.

I don’t think I’ll ever know, and logic would dictate that I should feel accepted in both societies, yet somehow, I feel the complete opposite in both.

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