FINDING YOUR IDENTITY WHEN YOUR
HOME IS GLOBAL
Naomi explores the intricacies of ethnicity through her own experiences and...
shifts from the physical to the metaphorical: a ‘dreamworld’ that is more tangible
for me than anyone else, rather than a ...
the Taliban, and the inaccurate media reports that go with these attacks,
‘Islamophobia’ has grown in Britain. To a very s...
am, or where I am from originally will decrease, and instead I will be accepted
and celebrated as another outcome of our g...
of 4

Naomi Walsh Article

Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Naomi Walsh Article

  • 1. FINDING YOUR IDENTITY WHEN YOUR HOME IS GLOBAL Naomi explores the intricacies of ethnicity through her own experiences and those recounted to her. She reflects on how being mixed race can often feel like you’re from more of a ‘dreamworld’ than a real place… Considering the amount of times I have personally been asked where I am from, I should have come up with a stock answer by now. But when it comes to ethnicity, my answers are as varied as my heritage. My father is from Liverpool, as are his parents, and he lived a happy childhood in the scouse county. My mother is mixed race, (Irish, English and Sierra Leonean) and lived an equally happy childhood in Sierra Leone. So what do I say when people ask where I am from? Do I say my hometown, where I live now at University, my mum’s hometown? Or my dad’s? Or do I sit them down and explain exactly the genetics that led to my wild curly hair, tanned-all-year skin and booming laugh? At first glance, this can seem like an over-thought problem. Why not just stick to saying where I grew up? Well, apart from the fact that many haven’t heard of the small ex-mining town in South Yorkshire, my answer is usually followed by a clarification: “noooo, I mean, where are you from originally?” It is still expected that if your skin isn’t white, and at least one of your parents certainly isn’t, then there is more to your ethnicity than where you were born or where you grew up. And this is certainly true; the mixed ethnicity population has nearly doubled from 1.4% in 2001 to 2.2% in 2011, with 0.5% ticking ‘other mixed’ rather than the traditional ‘white and Black African/Asian/Black Caribbean. But what does this mean in societal terms? More children are being born with a mixed heritage, with parents from different countries, that now have to figure out where they feel they belong. I don’t see myself as coming from one place, but as a mixture of all the histories of my family into one. For myself, growing up non-white has been a blessing towards my understanding of the world. I am lucky that my mother takes a complimentary approach to her past, and I have enjoyed the many facets of her ethnicity (and mine) for myself. Being able to understand and enjoy a culture that is over 4,000 miles away from England is pretty incredible, as is visiting my grandmother in her city of Liverpool and walking around the Albert Docks together. Your heritage is your own to have and to understand, but when it is a mixture of different places it can be hard to pin point your identity within a clash of cultures. This often means that I don’t see myself as coming from one place, but as a mixture of all the histories of my family into one. Therefore, my identity
  • 2. shifts from the physical to the metaphorical: a ‘dreamworld’ that is more tangible for me than anyone else, rather than a real place. Since coming to University, I have encountered many different people of different ethnicities, and I decided to ask some of them about their own experience of identifying as mixed race and what this meant to them. Although Mathilda, 20, is half Antiguan, she describes her ethnicity as English. A proud Bristolian, Mathilda says that her culture plays a big part of who she is, and because she has only experienced English culture so far she identifies as British. When asked where she is from, she often gets the line ‘where are you ACTUALLY from?’ to which she replies England, and even when describing where her parents are from she says Shrewsbury and Bexhill. People are often still dissatisfied with her answer, showing that being non-white in England still requires an explanation other than just being English. She admits that she doesn’t always feel ‘fully English’ because of how other people view her skin colour, and has been mistaken for Spanish and South American before. However, these misinterpretations and apparent dissatisfaction with her answers are viewed with amusement. Mathilda states that she doesn’t often describe her ethnicity in full, as she doesn’t think being mixed race changes who she is. She adds that being mixed race does not define her, and growing up in Bristol has shaped her character more than being half Antiguan has. Ultimately, a denial to conform to the expectations others have about her skin colour has led Mathilda to adopt her hometown as her true home. Kearti, 21, describes herself as half-Asian and half-European, with her mother being Northern Irish and her father being Indian. She admits that at times, she finds it difficult to tell people where she is ‘from’ when people ask about her heritage. She feels conscious that they may be asking in order to find out why her accent doesn’t immediately match the colour of her skin, as she has kept true to her Irish roots and speaks in an Irish accent. People often think Kearti is Spanish, and she admits that not “looking Indian” can make her feel ostracised from her Indian background. However, she much prefers to explain her ethnicity than simply state her hometown of Bristol. “It’s an exciting mix!” she adds, saying that a mixture of her two cultures has shaped her identity more than her current hometown of Bristol has, especially as she has fond memories of from her childhood of growing up in Ireland. Her answers certainly show a pride of ethnicity that is fostered from understanding and partaking in both sides of her cultural heritage. I have already made clear the advantages that I feel come with being of mixed ethnicity, but much like any dream, it is never a fully positive experience. Throughout my life I have been mistakenly profiled as Indian, Spanish, Native American, Thai, Pakistani… the list goes on. Sometimes these situations are hilarious; every year without fail someone approaches me speaking their native language when I am holidaying in their country. I smile and apologise for not speaking their language, and explain I’m English, and their reactions range from incredulous to suspicious. However, sometimes they are less so. Unfortunately, due to the rise in terrorist attacks from despicable organisations such as ISIS and
  • 3. the Taliban, and the inaccurate media reports that go with these attacks, ‘Islamophobia’ has grown in Britain. To a very select group of misguided individuals, anyone without a white face is a suspect of being a threat, and I have received many comments that are unfounded and frankly incorrect. I have no ties to the Islamic faith; no middle-eastern blood runs in my veins (as far as I can trace back), but still the comments sting. In an ever increasingly global world, if you are not easily identifiable into the pre-made categories of society, you will be put in one anyway. Because my facial features, hair and tone of skin are not immediately recognisable, people make assumptions that betray their ignorance of the racial progression that is occurring all around them. People are not limited to one town, county or country any more, and they may fall in love and reproduce with anyone they choose. So what is to be done? People are not limited to one town, county or country any more, and they may fall in love and reproduce with anyone they choose. Gone are the days where segregation was the common consensus, and races are kept separate to protect their ‘purity’, or to prevent the spread of their ‘impurity’. In America, the election of President Obama and the rise of movements against police brutality such as #BlackLivesMatter has shown that the States are starting to seriously consider the historical problems of race inequality with more urgency, and are less willing to accept outright consequences of racism. Of course, the world is a long way off accepting all races as equal, but in my optimistic eyes we are moving in the right direction. In an article for National Geographic that certainly inspired my own writing, Lise Funderberg explores the ‘melting pot’ spectacle that is occurring across America and how these people are choosing to identify themselves, ranging from ‘Blaxican’ to ‘Juskimo’. She concludes by suggesting “if we can’t slot people into familiar categories, perhaps we’ll be forced to reconsider existing definitions of race and identity, presumptions about who is us and who is them.” The sensation of an increasingly mixed race is therefore challenging bigger, historical, institutionalised perceptions about race and identity. Trying to ‘guess’ what someone is, or making assumptions about their heritage is becoming harder. Even if someone describes the ethnicity of their parents, this does not reveal the heritage of their wider family, the place they grew up, or the cultures they share. Instead of trying to place this new and ever-growing race of people into out-dated, binary categories, maybe it is time to reconsider race altogether. In a global world where nowhere is out of reach if you have the money and the time, why do we still insist on tying people down to one place when it comes to the colour of their skin? We are all one species, and it’s high time we started acting like it. As we continue to mix together in varying beautiful forms, binary ethnicity categories will become obsolete in their attempt to describe a person’s heritage. Moving forwards, I hope that the number of people asking me what I
  • 4. am, or where I am from originally will decrease, and instead I will be accepted and celebrated as another outcome of our global community. Words: Naomi Walsh Artwork: Naomi Walsh and Louis Luscombe http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local- authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt-ethnicity.html#tab-Changing-picture-of- ethnicity-over-time http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/changing-faces/funderburg-text

Related Documents