& mixing

New perspectives on mixed-race Britons

A CRE eConference · 4-6 September 2007

Mixed Race Britain - Through My Eyes (Rory Campbell, twenty-three years old with a keen interest in black history)
06 August 2007

Mixed Race Britain - Through My Eyes

Posted on: Monday 6 August 2007

Rory Campbell

Rory Campbell

I am Rory Campbell. My mother is white and my father is black. I don't remember ever meeting my father and have been raised by my mother my whole life. I don't feel I have ever had a positive black role model but my mum always tried to make me aware of my black history and I feel that this helped me to form the belief that all people are equal and anyone who thinks otherwise is just wrong.

A lot of my friends are also mixed race and I wonder how they see themselves as regard to their racial identity. Do they see themselves as members of both black and white communities or do they feel part of one more than the other?

As a twenty-one year old living in Oxford I have a wide range of cultures in my peer group and I notice that, once out of school, friendship groups seem to mirror the ethnic groups of their members, for example, African Caribbean boys will tend to associate with each other. However, I have noticed an exception to this rule with mixed race young people. It is not unusual to see a single mixed race girl with a group of white girls or a mixed race boy with a group of Asian lads. Why is this? And does it mean that mixed race people don't feel that they are part of any racial group?

I for one see myself as a black man and I think that the majority of my mixed race friends share this belief but it is not true. I am a mixed race man, I am not just black any more than I am just white, so why this denial of my white heritage? Many mixed race kids born in Britain claim the country of their black parent's origin. In this denial of Britishness they also effectively deny their white heritage. I think this is because mixed race people are easily perceived as being black by others based only on appearance. In the past there has been tension between black people and British nationalists such as the National Front, BNP etc and I believe this is why some black people will try and distance themselves from white people. This behaviour is echoed by other ethnic groups, most notably some Asian families keep traditions from their homeland and in a way refuse that they are even in Britain. So is it true of mixed race people? Does disowning their British heritage mean that they embrace their black culture and history?

The fact is black history is not taught in most schools (I remember learning more about American history than my own black ancestors). Therefore, Hip-Hop and R&B are the closest the majority of young people get to black culture. Even this has only really become acceptable as Hip-Hop culture has been absorbed into white culture. I don't believe that this is truly black culture with so many white kids emulating what they see on MTV and the like. But it is also not white culture as the main icons of this culture are largely black. So is this a new mixed race culture?

All ethnic groups have started to merge their cultures on this small island. Admittedly some more than others, and the number of mixed race children born in the UK proves this point as the number has been steadily increasing over the years. Inevitably the influence of mixed race members of society will also grow. This can surely only be a good thing as mixed race people (whatever the mix) are more likely to see the perspective of both their ethnicities. I believe that if this trend continues Britain will become a more diverse and equal society which has got to be good. Soon we will not be discussing the differences between the 'races' but the similarities that we share and realise that when it comes down to it we are all human, just different shades.

You can read Rory's mother Sue's paper here

About the author

Rory Campbell is twenty-three years old with a keen interest in black history. He believes that this should be taught in schools, helping to eliminate racist attitudes, so that children learn that it’s not just white Europeans who invented and discovered everything.

The responses to this piece are fascinating. We know that language is dynamic, meanings and common usage of words change over time being configured and shaped by prevailing ideologies,including racism and the contemporary social, cultural, political context. I think the responses from Ben S and Lin Kin clearly illustrate this generational influence. But the bottom line is that we all have the right to self-definition and the opportunity to celebrate rather than deny our multiple ethnic origins.
Gina Awoko Higginbottom
05 September 2007

An interesting read. I'm a mixed race man aged 35 and I've never felt need to call myself Black.

I'm lucky in that in that since I was an infant I have been accepted in to white culture. So I guess I have a different perspective on the mixed race experience.

May main concern's are the wider perceptions of mixed race people in general. We are stereotyped by both whites and blacks as looking black, and only liking black culture.

I find it offensive that the likes of Lewis Hamilton are described as black and from a "disadvantaged" back ground. And this view of him comes from politically correct white liberals. Why is acceptable for society ie the media to depict mixed race people as disadvantaged. I'd say mixed race people are high achievers, consider a lot of us (like me) are from single parent homes.

Another thing I find offensive is the emotional blackmail black people use, to make mixed race people feel guilty about being mixed. It's not right or acceptable that black people are offended because some one is proud of saying they are mixed race.

It shouldn't be acceptable for the likes of CRE chairman Trevor Philips to tell the media mixed race people have identity crisis. This man has no right to say such ignorant crap.

I'd say it's true that as whole, white people wish to ignore the fact mixed race people are part of white culture/communities. I often get the feeling that black people look down on mixed race people, as in we are supposed to hate ourselves that we aspire the be "real" black people. I think this view comes from the fact, many mixed race people call themselves Black.

In terms of negative attitudes towards mixed race people in recent history. Black people are just as guilty as white people. And it's about time Black people realized they are not the governing body or spokes people of mixed race people.

I'm very happy we mixed race people are at last starting to speak up for ourselves. We are the only racial group in the UK that has no voice, and we've been ignored for too long.

Ben S
01 September 2007

Interesting points. I am a mixed race woman approaching 60 and I have long accepted my blackness due to racism. However there are black people (the purists) who do not accept that I am black. And white people don't accept that a part of me is white. I can understand that because I don't look white but I am more concerned about black people's perception of mixed race people.
Lin King
09 August 2007

What a fantastic, inspiring & positive paper. Perhaps mixed heritage people do not necessarily feel excluded from different communities, but feel comfortable in being able to float between them?
Surely, as Rory suggests, exploring the similarities between one's mixed heritage identities is a far more positive way forward than focussing on the differences?

Planet Rainbow Project
06 August 2007

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