I Am Ethnicity: Other

I’m in my mid-twenties, born and bred in England to a blond-haired, blue-eyed Londoner father and an Indian mother, who was brought here in her early years and told, “You’re English now; forget everything you knew of India.” I was raised in a town near London that was built up to house the commuter overspill, resulting in a very middle-class, largely white, ‘colourblind’ environment which led to the identity crisis of my life in my early twenties.

Identity is a tricky concept, so I’ll start with the filter of privilege: I have privilege for my middle class, heterosexuality, cisgender identity and for being able-bodied. I lack privilege as a woman, for being dark-skinned, and for not being thin. However, I am privileged by being in the lighter half of the skin colour spectrum and by not being fat (in the reclaimed sense of the word). I am also privileged by a middle-class ‘standard’ English accent and an equally ‘standard’ English name; my features and colouring are the only things to mark me out as an ethnic minority woman, but through a combination of luck and intention my appearance largely conforms to conventional expectations of attractiveness and femininity.

Through the filter of feminist concerns: I am more affected by the overtly personal than the overtly political, but that’s changing. Since leaving university, reading newspapers on a daily basis and meeting more feminists in my everyday life my horizons are expanding significantly. There are certain topics like body image, the education system and sexual freedom that I am particularly interested in and expect to recur, but I also expect to grow and change along with this blog. I am a relatively new feminist, only three years into my awareness, and still have a lot to learn.

I enjoy and benefit from reading blogs by feminists who identify as one ethnicity or another, but I am racially ambiguous. I have sometimes been told that I ‘technically’ count as a Black feminist, but the Black experience is not mine, and neither is the white experience or the Desi experience, inasmuch as there can be one experience for any of those broad groups. This is a place to fall between those cracks and talk about what life there is like. I’m still unpacking my own cultural baggage, so this is partly a space to do that, but partly a way to contribute something to the existing feminist conversation.

I’m also hoping to hear from other mixed race feminists of any combination, who may or may not have the same experience of living the life of the dominant culture at home, school and work only to realise later on the effect that obviously not being Caucasian has had on them. I have stories of colouring my face in with the ‘flesh-coloured’ crayon when I was five and realising it was wrong, of scrubbing my ankles and elbows until they bled because I genuinely thought they were still dirty, of using racial epithets that could be applied to me because it was the done thing in that environment and I didn’t want to highlight my difference… and so on and so forth. I hope we can share our stories and interpretations of the world around us and create a space that is as valid as more than just ‘between the cracks’ of more established spaces.

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