Ethnicity and My Identity

This is definitely the most taboo subject I’ve written about.  I have been working on this post since February and I’ve been editing, deleting, rewriting, and considering this article.  Finally, I mustered up the courage to post it.  Here goes nothing!

DISCLAIMER: This is in no way to diminish anyone else’s experiences; I am simply here to inform and place my views and opinions of the subject.  

First, I think this will run a lot smoother if I explain my heritage to you. I am mixed race, half Asian (1/4 Guyanese and 1/4 Bangladeshi) and half white British. So, I could be as informed as possible, I spoke to all my grandparents, asking them about their heritage.  I found it fascinating learning about all their histories, so I just want to thank all my grandparents, they were incredibly helpful, and I found it remarkably interesting looking at your lives.  So, in their own words, here is their stories:

Grandad A – My Mum’s Father:

Born in Guyana (previously British Guiana) on 17 March 1947 in a place called Ruimveldt – was a town about three miles from Georgetown, the capital of Guyana which is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of South America near the equator.  We were a British colony with people brought there from different parts of the world: Indigenous American Indians, Blacks from West Africa, East Indians from India, Chinese and Europeans. Our language was English. Brought to Guiana from India by the British colonists during the latter half of the nineteenth century. My grandparents were indented to the sugar plantations where they worked in servitude for the rest of their lives. My parents though born in servitude were released from the sugar plantations towards the beginning of the twentieth century when Queen Victoria abolished slavery. family of seven sons and three daughters (one sibling dying at a young age). in 1964 my parents decided to send me to England to complete my studies in Accounting.   I followed my three elder brothers who had emigrated to England as part of the mass immigration from the Caribbean to work in London transport, nursing, and clothing industries. College for a total of three years where I qualified as an Accountant.”

Grandma A – My Mum’s Mother

I was born in India in 1949.  This was about two years after India was split into two countries by the British who were ruling India at the time.   The land was divided on the basis of which areas contained the most Hindus and which had the most Muslims.  Hindus were allocated the vast central part of the country and retained the name of India and the Muslims were given two tips on the east and west at the top of the triangle and named East and West Pakistan.   My father’s family came from Mushidabad which was situated near to Calcutta (now known as Kolkata).  My mother’s father was in the tea business and his family had been in the trade for many generations. I was born in a small village near Darjeeling which is at the foothills of the Himalayas.  It was and still is a beautiful region but, my parents left the area to move to East Pakistan as they were both Muslims and Bengalis.  Both sets of my grandparents remained in India when our parents moved to East Pakistan.  After a few years, my father was promoted and we moved to Chittagong which was the main port for East Pakistan he was promoted again and given the opportunity to move to England to be based in Liverpool to look after the welfare of the many Bengali seamen who travelled back and forth from Chittagong to Liverpool at that time.  My father went to England as an employee of the Pakistani government and not as an immigrant.  Over the years, he worked his way up until he became a Diplomat.  By then, we were grown up and had started careers of our own.  We all decided to settle in England.”

Grandad I – My Dad’s Father

“Born in Nov. 1943 in Middleton, a typical NW Mill Town, in the home of my maternal grandparents, William and Ethel Berry. My mother Winifred gave birth to twins, Janice and Robin, about 18 months later.  When my father, also called William, came home from the army in 1945 we moved to a very small house directly opposite a textile mill in the poorer part of Middleton. The house was blessed with a bathroom, unusual for that part of the town, but the toilet was outside. In this part of town, the streets were still cobbled, and deliveries of milk were by horse and cart.  My father had a brother, Samuel, and my mother had a brother Norman and a sister Ada all married and produced children. I am the eldest of that generation. We all lived within walking distance of each other. Robin, Janice and I were known as “latch key” kids in that our parents worked full time so from the age of about 9 I would meet up with my siblings after school walk home and let ourselves into the house, make a jam butty and go out to play. I failed my 11+ exam so ended up attending Secondary Modern School. Qualifications such as GCE’s were not offered at the school so I left in the summer of 1959 without any qualifications and started work as an assistant in the Laboratory of a local Textile Factory. Realising I would not get far in this environment without qualifications I set about obtaining some. Initially at Night School, 3 nights per week. These were 12-hour days with an expectation of considerable additional home study. This course of study I followed and eventually graduated in 1967 as an Associate of The Plastics Institute. I left home at the age of 16 and lived for 3 years as a lodger in the home of a friend’s grandma. I returned to live at home at 19 when my father had a stroke. I continued to live there until I got married in 1966 and bought the house, I was born in. I had to sell my Motor Bike to pay for the deposit on the house. Back to commuting by bus until I could afford my first car, a very old Morris Minor, in 1970. In about 1972 we moved to Uppermill in Saddleworth. A new position demanded that I relocate to the Midlands so in 1989 I moved to Leicstershire.”

Grandma D – My Dad’s Mother

“My parents were brought up on outskirts of Manchester. They lived a couple of streets from each other. Went to the same school. They married just after the war. I was born a year later and lived 5 doors away from my grandparents who had a hardware shop. My house was very similar to the ones you see on Coronation Street. A terrace house with a back yard. I left school when I was 15 to work in an office that did motor insurance.  It was a very old building in the centre of Manchester.”

I began primary school in 2007.  As crazy as it seems now, there were only five people who weren’t Caucasian.  You had me, my friend who was Chinese, and two other kids who were Indian.  When I was younger, I never really thought myself as different – mostly because I wasn’t.  However, people are mean, kids especially.  I can’t speak for the other four, but I was constantly questioned and scrutinized about my race.  This, in turn, made me very insecure and unsure about my race.  I remember asking my Mum why people always said I looked different and them asking me where I came from.  I remember crying when I found out I was half Indian.  As crazy as it sounds now, I had heard so many stereotypes about being Indian and I found myself never fitting any of them.  I was always embarrassed to be asked about my race even though some people went on holiday and came back darker than me.  I don’t know why my primary school looked down so much on Indians, especially as now lots of Asians go there.  It’s crazy how times have changed, even in a mere five years since I left.

I never told my parents about this lack of confidence I had surrounding my skin tone until very recently.  I think I finally opened up to them this year, explaining to them that I had a lot of kids tell me to “go back to where I came from”.  My Mum was completely mortified and felt awful I never told her.  To be honest, I think I did the right thing telling her when I did as if I told her as it was happening, I never would have gone through my journey of self-acceptance and I’d still be feeling unsure.  I’m proud of my genetics because they make me who I am.  I have my Mum’s smile, her beautiful black hair, and the same characteristics. I have my Dad’s height and insane sense of humour and vocabulary (we have an aversion to the big words my Mum uses).

As aforementioned, I was extremely insecure and unsure about my race.  At this time I developed anxiety and it wasn’t easy as people I knew kept on complaining about how theirs “nO wHiTe RePrESenTatIoN iN thE MeDiA” [which is the biggest bit of insanity I’ve heard since they said I was asking to be assaulted – that’s another issue in itself though] even though they have almost all the Disney princesses and I’ve yet to find a mainstream TV show or film which includes mixed race people.  However, I found a YouTuber who changed all of this.  Her name?  Liza Koshy.

Liza posted a video called “MIXED KID PROBLEMS | GROWING UP MULTICULTURAL”.  Of course, being a fan of Koshy’s iconic and hilarious videos for some time prior and being a mixed kid myself, I had to watch this video.  Watching it I felt as though I could finally identify with a social media influencer.  She explained it better than I ever could so here’s the video if you want to watch it:

After watching this video, confidence in myself and my race began to grow and blossom.  I referred to myself as “milk chocolate” and found myself being proud of who I was.  This was a first for me and I seriously couldn’t have done it without finding Liza Koshy online.

It wasn’t until I was looking back on old videos of me when I was three or so this evening that I realised I looked up to other diverse women.  The only difference between these women and Liza Koshy is the fact that these women are… fictional.  I have an entire article explaining these characters but in brief, I looked up to Princess Jasmine and Pocahontas as they had long black hair and slightly tanned skin.  I’m really happy that tiny Tati looked up to those two Disney princesses as a child as they are (in my opinion) the most forward-thinking Disney Princesses of their time.  Seeing these women in mainstream media gave me the push to keep going long before YouTube was even invented.

Once I came to terms with my ethnicity, I realised how freaking cool it is to be mixed race.  My Mum and her side of the family can cook the most delicious curries, chicken tikka and kebabs.  Meanwhile, my Dad and his side of the family make the most iconic British meals and the tastiest cakes with gorgeous icing.  It’s not just that, I have a plethora of religions in my family, and even though I myself am not religious, it’s so wonderful to learn about different cultures and expand my global knowledge.  This got me thinking.  Even though we’re all the same on the inside, we all have so many differences.  Why to we fear those differences?  Surely, we should embrace them!  If we all embrace different cultures instead of introducing idiotic immigration laws and forbid different people from coming to our country, our country, nay our world, will surely be far more peaceful and accepting.  Once we get this racial tension crap sorted, we can move onto equality for the LGBTQ+ community.  Too far?  I don’t think so.  We should learn to love, and all be equal.  I still can’t believe I’m having to preach this in the 21st Century, but I guess some people don’t listen.  So, until they do, I’m going to be here, and I’m staying here, fighting to get everyone’s voices heard.  And until we all accept each other, I’m afraid you won’t be able to shut me up buckaroo. Good luck trying – you’ll need it 🙂

This article has been a long time coming and so I’m going to talk about some issues we’ve had in the past four years.  First, I’m going to dive straight into the controversy pool and say it.  The way the media present terrorist attacks is the most bogus, insulting, and backwards way.  Surely, you’ll still be able to get views on your trashy tabloid article without blaming… I don’t know, China for all your problems.  How about we don’t place Muslim’s in the same category as mentally unstable killers?  The media is the reason Megan and Harry decided to quit royal life.  Why did they attack her so much?  I’ll tell you.  It’s because she was mixed race and had been married previously.  I’m going to say it.  Why on earth is that an issue?  We are in the 21st Century! We have people making cars which can drive themselves and the media are focusing on the fact that this inspiring woman is not the stereotypical image of royalty.  I know she’ll never read this, but if for whatever reason Megan Markle stumbles across this article, I want her to know that she inspires me so much and I hope to become as successful as her one day.  If you want an even more recent example of racial tensions around the world, lets look at how people reacted when COVID-19 first came about.  If people saw someone who “looked Chinese” sneeze, sniffle or even sigh, people ran a mile.  What?!

It sounds a lot like I’m just preaching problems and, yes, while that is what I am doing, I’m here to provide us with solutions too.  I’m about to get very political and even more controversial.  If you have an issue with it, leave a comment and we shall discuss in a calm, cool, collected way.  I’m open to other people’s opinions, especially in topics like this.  Okay let’s dive right into the problem pool!  As I have explained my issues with the media, here are my solutions: crack the whip on the IPSO code.  No more trashy tabloid articles with nonsense news articles talking about how “the Jews are to blame for all our problems!”  It’s 2020, we’re not under Nazi rule, so let’s not point fingers and find solutions instead of sitting down and complaining.  There’s only so much a fifteen-year-old girl without any qualifications can do to get her voice heard, so I’m leaving that up to the older generations. 

What else?  Here’s one: let’s enforce the Human Rights around the world.  We have so many organisations so we should use them to our advantage instead of listening to the leaders of our country threaten to build walls and pinning things on “post boxes”.  If anyone in power is reading this right now – please contact me, I want this to be sorted because I do not want my nine year old brother coming home telling me that the colour of his skin is ugly and he hates it.  No more please I beg world.

In simple terms, if you could just keep fighting the good fight – viva le resistance baby!  Our identity is made up of so much more than just race so why are we so quick to define people like that?

If you enjoyed reading this article, please like it and leave a comment about your thoughts.  This is by far the most exhausting post I’ve ever written, and it’s taken me months of planning, writing, rewriting, editing and compiling and I’m still not proud of it.  It is currently 01:11am and I am going to publish this article and sleep.  I love you guys, stay safe,

xo baby, Tati xoxo

3 thoughts on “Ethnicity and My Identity

  1. Loved reading about your ancestry, some of which I already knew. Especially potent of how the news as been in the news all over the world this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Why Malala Yousafzai Inspires Me – Totally Tatiana

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