19 – Jamaican and English
My dad is British and my mum is Jamaican, but me and my sister look so different so I used to think I was adopted. I’ve always lived in Chingford, like that’s where I’ve grown up. It’s not really a diverse area and at the school I went to there weren’t many black and mixed raced kids. I didn’t really have a sense of identity as a black person, like my mum would tell me “You’re Jamaican” but I didn’t really take it in. I think it was because I wasn’t really around other Jamaican people, back then I didn’t have many black friends.
In secondary school, what happened was a lot of black people didn’t really talk to me until they found out I was half Jamaican and they started trying to me my friend. It was a bit annoying, cos it was like, you weren’t interested in being friends with me before, but now suddenly because I’m half black you want to be friends. Secondary school was quite an annoying time, because no one believed me, both black and white. They would always be like, “Oh shut up, you’re not black, you’re white”. I was quite proud of my heritage and in a way I think it was good that people tried to deny my heritage, because it means I’m quite a strong person now and I’m quite comfortable in who I am, I don’t care what people think now.
When I went to Mossbourne, in Hackney, because it’s a lot more diverse, when I told people I was mixed race, they kind of just accepted it. When I came to Hackney, I had a lot more black friends, I was a lot more comfortable in my blackness. Near my school, there was a Jamaican restaurant that I would go to, I went there for like 3 years and I got to know the people there really well. That actually really encouraged me in terms of being proud of who I was cos I became really interested in my culture.
Because I obviously don’t look black, people sometimes treat me differently until they find out I am. What I found is that a lot of black people I meet aren’t really on being friends with me until they find out im black. Then its like “Ah, he’s one of us”, which I understand a bit because everyones like that but I’d rather people just be friends with me based on my personality.
I worry about other black people and how they feel within society, like they might not feel confident in themselves. You should be proud of your distinct culture no matter what people say. Although race matters, I wish people would focus on it a bit less. What I find interesting is that black people want society to accept their narrative, because they’re the minority, but then they don’t accept the minority within the minority. For the future, I want people to care a bit less, like even though they should be proud of who they are, in terms of how they interact with other people they shouldn’t focus on whether they’re black or white or whatever. I just want people to be more comfortable in who they are and be proud.