Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mixed Race Portraits

Published on 25 Jan 2015
Josh describes his experiences growing up as a mixed race person in Britain; touching upon skin colour, ethnicity sections on forms and whether there's a need to categorise ourselves by race anyway.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

‘Lightskin Guys Be Like…’

By bilalupnorth“Lightskin boys be so moist”

“Those guys are bare in their feelings”
“Drake behaviour”
I was standing in this Jamaican takeaway place the other day in Willesden (Curry Goat, Rice & Peas and one niiiice dumpling if you were wondering, and let’s be real, you’re now salivating) when the woman who was serving me, I say serving but she had gone off into the kitchen, quite casually turned to her co-worker and said ‘The Lightskin bwoy did order di dumpling deh, pass him it nuh’.(If you’re slightly lost with the translation, then all I can really recommend is you phone a friend.) ‘Lightskin Boy.’ I thought to myself. As I stood there looking at the back of my own beige hands having a moment that I can only liken to that bit in Lion King where Simba stares into the murky pond in the jungle with Rafiki telling him to ‘Look deeper’ the woman was back, shoving my food into my hand and so I walked off. Wandering along the street, now even more hungry because the food was within a minute away from being eaten (why does that always happen!?) I found myself quite lost thinking about the many times in the last 23 and whatnot years I’ve been referred to by my complexion, and it got me thinking, why? Why is it that I’m called a Lightskin Boy? What is even tied up in the meaning of this delineation, and indeed – what does society in Britain today think about males of a lighter complexion?
Often I hear it or, rather, see it thrown around on the TimeLine in memes, ‘banter’ etc. that Black or Mixed-Race men of a lighter complexion are in some way ‘less masculine’ than those society has termed ‘darkskinned’ – indeed something which begs me to ask what being ‘masculine’ even means today! So it got me thinking, what do other people think about this? I mean surely there’s a point where things stop being banter and start having real-world effects, so I thought I’d ask a few people what they thought, and it’s their words that shape this next bit of writing and hopefully, our understanding moving forwards…
“Before I talk about my personal experiences, I’ll say that I do believe some of the stereotypes surrounding “lightskin” are weakness, femininity, vulnerability and narcissism, in which lighter skinned women are viewed as the more “feminine” and “prettier” variant of the black peoples and lighter skinned men are deemed inferior and “soft’“
 “Lightskin guys are effeminate” – obviously there is misogyny and homophobia in this absolutely ludicrous statement. But it makes you think about how the notion of black hyper-masculinity is centred around darkskin men. See the marketing of hip-hop for a largely white audience – I don’t know much about hip-hop but there seems to be few lightskin male artists. Drake seems to be characterised as “emotional”.
Right, so supposedly I’m ‘soft’, ‘emotional’ or ‘inferior’ because of my complexion and therefore one can only assume that the opposite is true of ‘darker’ males. Indeed the pigeonholing and fetishizing of black masculinity turns a new leaf when we think about how this plays out when complexion is lighter and ideas of being ‘prettier’ or ‘narcissistic’ are ones that can again, be damaging within the community.  I find it difficult to make sense of such a binary dichotomy where the shade of a person’s skin can reflect upon their masculinity…
“I personally wouldn’t even call myself “lightskin”, however, it has been a label assigned to me from school and is kinda a British thing amongst European black folk (in my experience – living in Belgium and Holland”
 “I find that being called anything but black is more or less an insult, like Carlton in that one Fresh Prince episode where he’s called “not black” because of the way he acts. It’s degrading and worse when it comes from other black people. Then there are those who glorify the negative aspects of this situation. Its nonsensical.”
 I found a similar thing when I asked the question of what people think of the word ‘lighty’ when attributed to females, that the words are often perpetuated by black communities themselves in a way that can be damaging to ones own perceptions of their identity by alienating people of a light complexion in a way that can separate them from the ‘Black British community’. Whilst there are those who embrace the terms and choose to take on such labels and self-attribute, there are those for whom experience of these labels mean something much more divisive.
“I attended a pan-African event here in London with my cousin in 2013 (it was my very first one) and I noticed that we stood out, well, they made it very clear that we stood out – I could feel nothing but daggers and evils. Shortly after the event finished and everyone was socialising —- but ignoring our presence, we approached this black American woman just for chit chat & she started telling me I should focus on mulatto issues because she doesn’t think I’m “black-black” and basically said her fight isn’t my fight, my cousin was denied an Afro-hair goodie bag because she wasn’t “black enough”
 “…the idea of light skin privilege/colourism that people sometime perceive us to have Light-skin may be a “privilege”, but getting to grips with your identity as a mixed-race man is incredibly complicated in many cases our black community doesn’t have the language to welcome mixed-race people yet…”
“I think a lot of people also assume that if you’re light skinned and “black” you must therefore be mixed race with one half most likely white British. I do think in my experience people sometimes view you differently because of that, for better or worse. I’ve literally had people at secondary school tell me I’m not properly “black” because I don’t fit their narrow stereotype of what “black” is…”
The idea that there is a proto-typical ‘blackness’ that having lighter, or mixed complexion skin does not fit into appears not to be one too alien to black people within our community, indeed if there’s anything I learnt from my Jamaican takeaway experience (still hungry?) it’s that skin tone can be used as a label for ones identity.
In all, (already? More of a conversation starter I know…) I’d like to leave you with more questions than answers (them only child problems). So here’s a couple: What can we learn (and, don’t lie to yourself, we can learn something) from some of the experiences written above? Where do we go in terms of our understanding of black-masculinity from here? I’d like to think that at the very least there’s those couple cogs turning in the back of your mind; that you too can be staring into that pond just like Simba… But if not, actually, even if there are – I’ll leave you with the reflections of the people I heard from:
 “Lightskin guys are not really black” – I grew up in a close extended family with lots of cousins where the only white person was my dad (he’s an only child). Yet when I tell people I identify as a “black, mixed race” person the “black” identity has been questioned. A few shades darker and I doubt it would.”
“I do think that light-skinned black men are seen as less of a “threat” to Eurocentric cultures/institutions and that they benefit from this (although this evidently is a result of racism). Looking at figures like Obama, Lewis Hamilton, Drake, Chukka Umunna etc it seems that society embraces light skinned black men much faster than their darker brothers due to the idea that they are less “other” and because their existence promotes the popular idea that we are now in a post-racial society and that in the end all our children will be “mixed” like them”
“I’ll end with this: problematic stereotypes of lighter skinned people or black folk with (perceived) “non-black” features only causes nothing but confusion, it’s very damaging”
Now go grab your Jamaican takeaway in peace *sips tea*

Friday, 12 June 2015

Loving Day 12th June 2015

Loving Day commemorates a date in history when the Supreme Court of America ruled to disband all anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 (laws that made mixed race marriages illegal).

Loving vs Virginia was an important Supreme Court case, but it was also the story of a real couple’s love. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in Virginia, USA. They fell in love and decided to get married.

Regrettably, getting married was not that simple in 1958. Mildred was a young black woman and Richard a respectable white male. The law forbade people of different races to marry each other, and this was true in many states – including Virginia. However interracial marriages were legal in Washington, DC at that time. Therefore, they decided to go to DC, get married, and return to Virginia to begin their life together.

This, however, was only a short term solution. The law in Virginia not only forbade interracial marriage ceremonies, but it also forbade interracial couples from getting married elsewhere and then returning to their home state. Not long after their return to Virginia, the newly-married Loving couple were awakened by the police and taken to jail for the crime of having an interracial marriage.

Richard and Mildred went to trial and the judge found them guilty and sentenced them to jail term three years. However, the Judge said that he would suspend the sentence if they agreed to leave Virginia for twenty five years. Given the choice between imprisonment and banishment, they chose banishment, and the Lovings moved to Washington, DC to live out their married life.

Though the Lovings were able to live together legally in Washington, they did not have an easy time; they faced discrimination everywhere. They were facing the emotional hardship with the separation from their families. Life was both difficult and horrible for the Lovings. In extreme anxiety, Mildred sent a letter to Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States, explaining their life and difficulties that they were facing as a interracial couple in Washington.

Mildred’s letter was sent on to the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City. They took interest in the case and helped the Lovings find an attorney for their case. Two lawyers, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, also felt that not only the Lovings, but all Americans were entitled to be married and to live in the state of their choice. Due to the difficulties that they faced they agreed to take on the case for free.

After a long and hard legal battle the Lovings’ case eventually appeared before the United States Supreme Court. The Court decided after hearing the hardship that the Lovings faced and hearing about the many people that were unable to get married the Court voted unanimously in their favor.

Ultimately, after nine years of struggle, the Lovings won the right to live together as husband and wife in their home state of Virginia. In the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual and cannot be infringed on by the State.”

Not only did the case win them their freedom to love each other, but it also granted the same freedom to every interracial couple in every state in the USA. At the time of the Loving case, sixteen states had laws prohibiting interracial couples to marry.

Loving v. Virginia (1967) made it illegal for any state to enforce those laws which stop interracial marriage. These laws did not only apply to black and white people; in many states restriction on relationships with Asians, Native Americans, Indians, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups were abolished.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Mixed Couple Wedding Cake Toppers, Gay, Black, Interracial

At UK Wedding Cake Toppers you can expect quality, handmade, hand painted wedding cake toppers, personalised with the colours you require to match your very special day. 

At UK Wedding Cake Toppers we specialise in Diverse Wedding Cake Toppers. We believe that you should be able to bespoke the colours that you require for your very special day. We make personalised Gay Wedding Cake Toppers for your Civil Partnership and Mixed Interracial Couples for your Wedding Day. 

Make your day special by ordering a Wedding Cake Topper that is personalised with the colours that you will wear on your special day. You will not see these wedding cake toppers/souvenirs anywhere else, they have been designed by UK Wedding Cake Toppers, exclusively for you. Click the images below to take you to each product or visit our shop.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Mixed Race and Black Girls Wanted for media opportunity!!

At the moment the timing is 10 till 2 this coming Saturday (23rd May) at a studio 5 mins walk from North Acton station.

They have a short script that the girls will have to read to camera; either the whole script or one line depending on what each person can remember by Saturday.

Office Tel: 020 8978 3799

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Mixed Race Woman's Challenging Question

yingyang2hate the first day of classes.
Instructors do three things: arrogantly talk about themselves, ask for students to engage in superficial, meaningless introductions that no one will remember, and read every line of their boring syllabus to students like we can’t.

So I show up fashionably late to reduce the total amount of time wasted, especially for an 8am class.

Imagine my surprise to walk into this class 30 minutes late to see the teacher sitting at his computer doing nothing and all the students working on an assignment. I thought what a disinterested, lazy bum, he should be fired.

I looked at the board and read the instructions: “Take out a sheet of paper. Write four paragraphs, the first 3 must start with the words “I am” and the last one starts with “I am not”. Now turn that into a 2-3 minute oral presentation.


I mumbled, “I’m not sure how much I should share about myself” leery about the motive for this “assignment”. But I decided to take the jump since everyone else seemed to be working diligently.

We all gave our presentations, and I have to admit, the class was much more interesting than I imagined it would be. I learned a lot about my classmates, but I still thought the instructor was a lazy bum.

The next class, my perceptions of the teacher did a 180 when the instructor gave their “reflections”. The lazy bum was transformed into a passionate, motivating, Civil Rights historical educator that gave us an insightful critique about our presentations. Two of us were cited by name for the content of what we talked about. After dissing my attitude when I came in the door, the professor gave me props for communicating the chip on my shoulder, that too often people see my looks and ignore my intelligence, my drive, my substance.

So after class, I felt it my responsibility to tell the instructor. “I thought you were a horrible instructor last week, totally disinterested in your students. But today I saw your passion. I was wrong.

But the more I thought about the instructional approach, the more I wondered how honest they were being, not with us necessarily, but with themselves. The more I listened to the stories about being a “Black educational activist”, the more curiosity it stirred in me. I was confused, that the instructor seemed so lost and confused about who they were. Let’s keep it real, “who the hell did the prof think they were fooling! Definitely not me!” I don’t know much about activism but I know good stuff has to start with the truth, and I knew what I was hearing from the teacher was far from the whole truth.

Just looking at my professor, in particular his skin, after the third class, I played my hunch. A group of four or five students started a conversation about how much we enjoyed the class as the instructor was packing up, not saying much, but we slowly drew them into the conversation. I decided it was time to ask the question that addressed one of my biggest pet peeves, when people are not honest about who they are, often without even thinking about how they define themselves to the world. Although I was unsure how the professor would respond, I was sure that they were hiding an important truth from the class, and maybe from themselves, I knew it was time to force the issue.

The answer was quick and direct, but you could see my professor’s world crumble as they began to think about the implications of my question for their words, ideas and actions.

So what was the question? Simple and to the point.

“I can’t help notice you are kind of light (skinned), like me. Just wondering…

Are you mixed?”

Yours truly,

T.K. follow TK's Journey

P.S. – I received an invitation to join some type of business advisory board from my instructor. I replied that I would consider that invitation if they read and responded to this post. So far, no reply. Given my concerns about possible retaliation at school from my instructor, and the heated and ugly way race conversations occur in America, I’m unwilling to reveal my true identity at this point.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Writers Wanted

London, Nationwide Closes Thursday 30 April 2015 Paid (£10k-15k pro rata) Part time Artform:literature   Contact: Katy Massey tangledroots@live.co.uk


Write about your life for Tangled Roots...we want your story in our next book!
Following on from the first, highly successful book, we are now seeking submissions for the next volume of Tangled Roots: True-Life Tales of Mixed and Multi-Racial Families.
We want your true stories/memoir/true-life tales, as well as your family pictures and your memories.
There are millions of mixed race households in the UK, but little published writing about what life is like for mixed families, or how there came to be so many. To fill this gap, Tangled Roots will be publishing a second volume of true stories about mixed lives.
We are also looking for photographs, anecdotes and stories for our new website.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE MIXED RACE - ANYBODY WITH EXPERIENCE OF MULTI-RACIAL/ETHNIC HOUSEHOLDS CAN SUBMIT. If you support the idea of Tangled Roots, then your contribution is as important as anyone else's.
Bernardine Evaristo MBE ('Mr Loverman') and Charlotte Williams ('Sugar and Slate@) are already commissioned to write for this collection. Your work will appear alongside theirs and that of other renowned writers. Also, if published in the collection, you will be paid for your contribution.
  • What do we want? Short (up to 2,000 words) pieces of memoir, autobiography and true-life tales sent to tangledroots@live.co.uk. Cut and pasted into the email – no attachments please.
  • When do we want it? By April 30th 2015 to be considered for inclusion in the next book, but at any time for the website.
  • Who do we want it by? ANYONE who has experience of mixed race families in the UK.
  • NB We are aware that definitions of race and religion can sometimes overlap, therefore we welcome stories where religious tensions has/can form a significant barrier to personal relationships.
This is a chance say what you REALLY feel about race and mixture – we are open-minded about subject matter. For detailed submission Guidelines please see www.tangledroots.org.uk You can also read previously-published stories here and get writing hints and tips.