Just because I’m mixed race doesn’t mean you can touch my hair
And stop telling me I’d look good with green eyes
There’s definitely a social stigma associated with being mixed race – “Mixed race people are so beautiful,” or “Oh, mixed race people are so full of themselves.”
I almost don’t want people to know that I’m mixed race (before they’ve met me) for fear that their expectations will be raised about my appearance – I’m actually competing with myself. People think that mixed race people have come a long way, but being mixed race is harder than you think.
Let’s start with the hair. You can’t even understand how hard it is to maintain beautiful silky curls without looking like you’ve just stepped out of a pool or been travelling in a convertible with the roof down. It’s a very harsh job trying to negotiate the moisture which holds the shape and texture. Sometimes I just get up out of bed like “fuck it” and roll my hair up into a tight crispy bun – or, really, just an unattractive tennis ball.
Then there’s people saying “What I wouldn’t give for hair like yours,” which sometimes feels quite offensive – like, “You don’t like my face then? Ok, thanks.” Same goes for “You would look so cool with green eyes!” That’s genetically rare, and actually really rude. I don’t care for your opinion on the colour of my eyes, so back off.
And I’m sorry, but asking “Do you just lie on your hair at night like a pillow?” is ridiculous. Can you conceive how itchy that would be? And don’t even try the excited “Ohmygod your hair looks so fluffy! Can I touch-” Just no.
Another thing: please don’t ask me to do a Jamaican accent – that’s racist. Plus, as hard as I try, I have never quite been able to master the technique (although I’m better than all those other kids who think saying “bacon” like “beer-can” is a top-class imitation of the Caribbean dialect).
Just to clear things up, I’m from England. Just England. So when people say, “Where are you from?” I’m going to tell them the exact truth: England. Don’t go asking me “No, I mean, where are you really from?” like you’re going to scratch a “Made in China” sign in my wrist. This is me – English. Oh, and I have some Caribbean heritage.
Yes, I do love R&B and I do love rap, but I don’t know its entire history. I also like lots of other types of music, and I’m pretty open new stuff as long as it’s a good version of what it is. And yet, as much as I love my friends, they don’t half take the piss out of me when I don’t know the next top rap song. Comments like “Wow, even I know this one, are you sure you’re black?” or “You should know this, it’s your kind of music,” never fail to appear over pre-drinks when its someone else’s turn to DJ.
There’s also this idea that we’re all supposed to have this pursed-lip, finger-waving attitude to everything like the typical “Bring-it On!” sassy black cheer leader. Although I have in fact joined stunt cheerleading society, I have never been good at come-backs. I won’t go down without a fight that’s for sure, but I can never express myself quickly enough.
People teeter on their toes in anticipation of “The Sass”, which when successful, seems to officially legitimize my subsequent “black swagger.” But, as in most cases, I’m just left with this pent up-ness that’s all gesture and no words. It’s quite embarrassing actually, I feel like disgrace to my own kind. And it shouldn’t be that way – why should it feel that way?
It’s easy for people to throw around the old saying that “mixed race people have the best of both worlds,” but are we really considering what that means? Exactly what parts of what “worlds” am I supposed to accommodate in order to class as mixed race? Sass or no sass? Big bum or small? Curly hair or straight? It feels like an ever-fluctuating list of characteristics that I just don’t have the time or energy to look into. It makes me wonder how many other mixed race people feel the same way. Maybe I’m the only one. Maybe it’s quite a lot of them.
Either way,and all jokes aside, be careful about implying expectations about any ethnicity – even if you think you’re just having a laugh.