Growing up, as a mixed race white and black Caribbean girl, it was always hard knowing where I fit in. My mum would drop me off at school, and the other kids would ask me who the nice blonde lady was; was I adopted, was she a friend of my mums? And don’t even get me started on the uproar when my step dad (who also happened to be white) would appear at the school gates. The opened mouth stares of puzzled children would follow us wherever the three of us went. I was one of a very small number of ethnic minorities throughout my school life. I faced racism and prejudice, as many minority group members do, and not just from my white peers, but from members of the black community as well. They called me ‘white washed’ because the fact that I sometimes straightened my hair and had mostly white friends, meant I wasn’t black enough for them. But I wasn’t white either. So where did I fit in?
It wasn’t until I got a bit older, that I realised the answer to that question. We are all a community, because we are all people. Whether we identify with a specific race, religion, region, sexuality or gender. Whether we define ourselves by our career, parenthood, sense of humour, morals or education. No matter the aspects of ourselves that make us individuals, in the end we are all just people. So I stopped worrying about how black or white I was, because in the end it just didn’t matter; I am proud of my heritage in it’s entirety, and yet it does not define me.
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The truth is, as a society we sometimes forget to recognise that we are all just people; different, maybe, but still equal. So I, like so many others, am always rooting for those of us who are brave enough to challenge society and outdated norms, and stand up for equality for all. However, it seems like we are doing ourselves a disservice sometimes, when in our search for equal rights and fair treatment, we accidently end up segregating ourselves further.
Only a few weeks ago in the USA, members of the Black Lives Matter campaign held an ‘exclusively black’ Memorial Day party. When I heard about it, I found myself wondering…if I had wanted to attend, would I have been allowed to? I, after all, am not exclusively black. And then, if I were allowed to go, my closest friends wouldn’t have been able to come and support me, and the rights of the black community, because the majority of them are white. I would be alone in a sea of strangers. Isn’t that what we are all standing against?
Of course, we should be proud of our smaller communities, and there is nothing wrong with people in these communities coming together, but it seems a shame to exclude people in the process. People who only wish to support us, help us to reach our goals. Black Lives Matter, and so many other worthy and important campaigns, aim to raise awareness of prejudice, and the exclusion of specific groups of people from society. But how does it help our cause if we exclude the very people we are trying to connect with? The world is more than just shades of colour. If we are open hearted, and open minded, we can all find a connection to one another, so that we don’t find ourselves alone and wondering where it is that we fit in.