I am mixed raced and ‘White-Passing’. Well, to be more specific I am white and black Caribbean. So what does White-Passing mean? Well, it’s in the name, meaning that it’s someone from an ethnic minority who looks white. Throughout my entire life, I have always identified as being mixed race, it was just an intrinsic part of who I am. Recently after watching a short film about being ‘White-Passing’ by Gal-dem video editor Ifama, where one girl felt she did not identify with the black side of herself, I felt what hadn’t been talked about was being ‘White-passing’ but having a strong connection to the black part of your identity maybe even stronger than the white part of yourself.
My family dynamic has always been that I was surrounded by the Caribbean side of my family, as I never really knew the British part of my family. This consisted of my mum and sister who are mixed race and then my entire extended family who are black. Growing up I was always around black Caribbean culture from my mum blasting Reggae whilst cleaning on a Sunday, to large family gatherings (when I say large I mean seeing people who you don’t even know but yet they are somehow related to you). This caused me to feel a cultural affiliation to the Caribbean and everything to do with it. It was never an issue with my family the fact that I was considerably paler than everyone else, it only ever came up as an occasional internal insecurity when I was around them (or the odd Casper the ghost joke from an idiot cousin).
However, this all changed once I started secondary school. My entire heritage was put into question simply because I looked white. I could never voice my opinion in cultural debates like how is plantain pronounced? (Which we all know because, how is mountain pronounced? I’ll leave that up to you to figure out) without the answer coming back to me that ‘ I wasn’t black enough to know’. Everyone would have a shocked look on their faces at parties when the song Candy by Cameo came on and I never missed a beat. Whenever I spoke of racist experiences I had with people relating to my hair it was never taken seriously (despite the fact that I am not one of these mixed race girls with 3A hair claiming to of struggled learning to love it). Cultural appropriation has become a large topic recently especially when it comes to hair. This makes it hard for me to embrace my own hair (which is a huge part of black culture) as fear of others assuming I am another culturally insensitive white girl who wanted to look ‘cute’ for a festival rather than a mixed race girl wanting to wear her hair in protective styles. This has caused me to question my entire identity, as Caribbean culture has always been a prominent part of my life yet here I was being rejected by my peers.
Now don’t get me wrong I am aware of the privilege that being ‘White-Passing’ has given me. With Black people in City of London 11.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than any other race, it is clear that racism is still prominent within our society. Alongside the fact that in major fashion campaigns colourism is evident as ethnic minorities with darker skin are scarcely featured. So before anyone comes after me saying that I am whining about nothing I get that being Black and of a dark complexion brings about a lot more struggles than I have ever faced being White-passing. I also get that being mixed race and of a pale complexion, I will never fully feel the negative side of the black experience. But being White-passing comes with its own unique set of obstacles just like any other type of ethnic minority may experience.