I am not mixed race

Luke Zurrov Blackstock, 18, London

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When I meet new people one of the questions they seem to ask is “what are you?” I know why they are asking, because they would define me as half caste, ethnically ambiguous, mixed race. Does that mean that they are of the full caste, the ethnically definitive, the pure race. The systemic problem feels like falling into the abyss of the mixed race or other categories means that I have to define myself as something that doesn’t fully represent the plethora of cultures, traditions and values that I was born into. I know that my answer to the question isn’t strictly speaking true, I simplify myself into a general half white and half black, neglecting the nuances that make me me, like my heritage from the Caribbean island covered in volcanic ash, my ancestors’ culture that stemmed the music of Bob Marley, or the history of a land invaded in July 1974. But I am not mixed race.

We, the hallmarks of the racial divisions of the past being overcome are dividing ourselves by having to simplify our heritage. I’m forced to tick a box and uptake an identity that doesn’t truly represent me. Because I am not mixed race. Almost like race is a binary concept. You can only be one, but you cannot be both. But in all our different shades and guises we are all are ticking the same box, which is wrong because we are all different, heralding from all over the world. The word mixed race describes nothing, no shared history in the way other categories do, they way that a race or an ethnicity should. To the cynics who take offence to what they may see as my politically correct bullshit, I take offence to you. Offence at your definitions and categories that imply I am below you, almost sub-human. Why should I defined as not full, not definitive and not pure. So, I am not mixed race.

What’s missing is society’s acceptance, the ability to be given a chance to explain my history in full as opposed to simplifying my heritage. Being able to say that a quarter of my genetics comes from a society in the shadow of Soufrière Hills, another quarter from the Land of Wood and Water and the final half from the birthplace of the goddess of love. The problem is the term, the box I feel forced into ticking, the overarching label. Am I not full because I am half caste? No. Do I not fit in because I’m ethnically ambiguous? No. Am I not pure because I am mixed race? No. The crisis of confidence is a result of the systems of simplifications that detract from our beautiful complexity. Why do we have to think in these terms? They could call us multiracial, shared heritage or poly-ethnic. But they choose to imply that we are not full, indefinite and impure. So, I may be a quarter Montserratian, a quarter Jamaican and half Cypriot, but I am not mixed race.

Luke is a member of our Young Leaders programme. The Almeida Young Leaders is a scheme giving young people with something vital to say the tools and platform to do so. Each young leader has been mentored by a writer and director to develop their ideas, structuring a speech and skills in public speaking.