Mixedness
& mixing

New perspectives on mixed-race Britons

A CRE eConference · 4-6 September 2007

Black and Minority Ethnic health inequalities and the 'mixed-race' population (Ayo Bakare, Multiple Heritage Voices)
24 August 2007

Black and Minority Ethnic health inequalities and the 'mixed-race' population

Posted on: Friday 24 August 2007

Ayo Bakare

Ayo Bakare

In 2006 I carried out research focusing on the recognition of inequalities in health for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. It specifically focused on if, and how these inequalities will effect the growing mixed race population and the implications this may have on existing health policy. It also explored issues of identity as a critique on existing outdated research, in an effort to gain insight into how mixed race people feel they are perceived ('racially') by society and how they want to be perceived.

I used qualitative methods in undertaking this study. The qualitative research consisted of five semi-structured interviews which explored how a sample of mixed race people identify with their 'racial' group and how they feel they are 'racially' perceived by the NHS and if this has had any influence on their health care experience. The study allowed for depth and understanding of the issue through analysing experiences and opinions of the participants which could only be gained by the methodology which was chosen.

Findings

As the study progressed, the issue of mixed-race contemporary identity and experience of racism, acceptance, and cultural balance, became the prevalent themes and although they were not directly related to health care experience, they had a direct bearing on future policy and provision for all public sector services.

The mixed-race individuals interviewed raised various issues in regard to objective beliefs and prejudices which are often inflicted on them, as well as inappropriate categorisation or assumptions based on ignorance as to how they should be classified and where they should belong ethnically.

Treatment by the NHS

The study showed that with the exception of two occurrences, the majority of participants were happy with access and provision in the health service and didn't feel subject to worse treatment because of their ethnicity. However, all participants were aware of racism and believed that they were likely to be subject to it in other contexts.

Education

A particularly insightful finding was the amount of racism and prejudice that had been experienced by participants in all levels of education from Primary school through to University. This moulding of children's and young adults' futures based on teachers low expectations of them is an area that needs much more attention and transparency as it will have major implications for future generations.

Unpacking terminology

Implications of these findings include the government's need to 'unpack' the loaded terminology used to describe all non-white groups. BME is simply not appropriate as it serves to marginalise groups which are not yet largely politically established such as mixed race, as well as a host of other communities which are new to Britain. Much emphasis has been placed on serving certain minority communities' needs. Mixed race people however have often been considered to have the same needs as the black community. My research identified that this is not necessarily the case and there are many differences which have gone unidentified and must be met.

Policy implications

Policy implications are clear in that public sector services need to develop increased awareness of mixed race and make additions to their race relations schemes and policies which provide emphasis on the issues that have been highlighted. Moreover, as the mixed race population grows, organisations specifically designed for single parents and mixed race children which provide support on issues of culture, tradition and identity will be required. The mixed race population seem to have a valuable advantage of cross cultural awareness and the ability to cross ethnic boundaries as a result of their backgrounds and experiences and this should be supported and celebrated.

My findings provided useful insights into the identity issues that affect mixed race individuals and how these will translate into policy initiatives. However, it must be emphasised that due to the small sample, the findings cannot be generalised to represent all mixed-race individuals' opinions. In future research of this area, a larger sample across a more varied age range should be considered to increase the scope and understanding of the issues.

My research is a contribution to the growing body of contemporary literature on mixed race studies and paves the way for the development of further study into the experience of mixed race people using public services. It hoped to dismantle existing pathologies about mixed race individuals and give a platform to a politically marginal group. In undertaking the research, I hope that other mixed-race people will challenge institutions to ensure service provision is specific to their individual needs.

Recommendations

The following recommendations have emerged though undertaking this study:

Education policy

  • Teachers should be made more aware of the identity issues that may face mixed-race children in order to resolve any issues with sensitivity and understanding.
  • More should be done to tackle some teachers low expectations of black and minority ethnic groups.
  • Regulate career advice to ensure people are aware of their rights and their ability to pursue their chosen career path.

Health Policy

  • Undertake research into health issues that may be specific to mixed-race people.
  • Implement compulsory training on the specific needs of different communities to ensure that individual needs are met in health care provision.
  • Plan for the provision of community based services which are sensitive to issues around identity.
  • Take steps to promote awareness and training about the issues that are likely to accompany being mixed-race to encourage general understanding by health professionals.

General

  • Provide funding for projects and initiatives which will help single parents and mixed-race children at every stage of their development.
  • Re-assess race relations policy to be more specific in regards to needs of different ethnic groups.
  • Put employment initiatives into place which specifically target mixed race people to ensure that they are supported and are able to achieve promotion.
  • Target the provision of vulnerable children in care.

 

About the author

Ayo Bakare is a youth mentoring project co-ordinator at the Media Trust and previously project managed the Multiple Heritage Voices project.

3 Comments
I am not surprised by your findings with regard to education I was however by the NHS results because I have spoken to many mixed-race individuals who have had a negative experience. This could be because of the size of the sample and I would be interested to see what a larger sample produced. Thank you for emphasizing the smallness of the sample if only all researchers would do this we wouldn't have the sweeping stereotypical statements we do.
Sharron Hall
04 September 2007


Thanks for your comment Kendra,

Its interesting how racial identity, and a lack of understanding of this mixed racial identity can affect how we feel people will treat us in all aspects of life, including service delivery.

I recently went to give blood, and found that they didnt have the appropriate categories for mixed individuals and still only gave my 'other' as an option, so i refused to tick any. I think that this lack of awareness about Britians changing demographics in the health service is pretty scary, as if they are not recording groups properly, how can they identify patterns and trends?

I would be really interested to know what the NHS policy is on racial categorisation, and how consistent this is across the service.

Ayo Bakare
03 September 2007


I work in the health service and I have to say that I don't think that they really understand me. The white English people seem to view me as white English and don't get why I'm not so bitter about immigration (Dad was an immigrant, that is why).

Some black people don't view me as Jamaican or Carribean. I notice they seem more friendly with themselves than with me and talk more.

And the ethnic monitoring forms don't cover white UK/black Carribean. It just has white (no country specified)/Black Carribean, so it's not a true reflection of ethnic background, just a race thing.

It's good people are looking at these things because we and not as straightforward as other ethnic groups. We don't have on culture or large groups to adhere to. It's hard to stereotype a mixie and get it right.

Kendra.

Kendra Mendes
25 August 2007


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