Where Do I Belong? Growing Up Mixed Race
As a brown skin mixed-race girl, learning to accept my skin colour has taken time and I know that I am still on the journey to full acceptance.
When I was a little girl, I never thought much of my skin colour, or rather I never paid much attention to my appearance in general. However, during my teen years, body image and beauty standards began to play an important role in my life. I attended a school with predominantly other students of colour, in which toxic Eurocentric beauty standards lurked in the hallways and classrooms. It was subtle, but nonetheless had a big impact on me. I remember my brown friends staying in the shade, applying lots of sunscreen, and wearing long-sleeved tops to ensure that their skin did not tan.
It was not just at school, it was everywhere. From the characters in TV shows to models in magazines, I rarely saw other girls who looked like me in the mainstream; rather they were white with light hair and light eyes. Society constantly reminded me and my other brown friends that our skin colour was undesirable and not beautiful. While the Eurocentric beauty standards at my school were toxic, it was ultimately the inevitable consequence of years of colonialism, racism and xenophobia in Britain. It was not the fault of my brown friends and I – it was the fault of our society.
I began to hate my brown skin genetics. I often wondered if my life would be different if I had inherited more of my Caucasian genetics, such as my grandfather’s blonde hair and light eyes - perhaps I would be more beautiful, more perfect in the eyes of society.
Growing up with a predominantly more Caucasian-looking family, I always felt like the odd one out. I did not look like my white cousins with light eyes and blondish-brown hair. I was the brown one, who was constantly reminded by colourism in society that I had been cursed with my brown skin genetics. I remember feeling alone and trapped with my insecurities.
When I joined the University of Manchester last year, I met other mixed-race girls and I realised that I wasn’t alone anymore. I joined the Feminist Collective, where we speak about intersectional issues, such as beauty standards. I grew increasingly aware that I was not alone in my insecurities and it was then that I began to love my skin colour. To finally love brown skin after years of being told that being white is more beautiful felt political, like a protest against Eurocentric beauty standards.
This problem is not discussed enough in conversations about being mixed race. It is a deep-rooted issue that stems from centuries of colonialism. It has only recently been addressed and therefore we still have a long journey ahead of us to accept and love mixed race girls of all colours. I am at a point in my journey in which I am proud of my brown skin. For me, it represents my ancestors and my Asian heritage. It represents my rich and beautiful roots that flow deep within my blood.
Written by Isabella Lock