I am originally from The Seychelles Islands, which is a melting pot of many nationalities (African, Chinese, French and Indian to name a few). I moved to Northern California when I was six. Besides the difficulties of a new country and learning to speak the English, I had another issue. I was mixed-race at a time when there weren’t many mixed-race children. There was a sense of being different, and not fitting in. People would always ask ‘what are you?’ And when I explained that I was mixed, or that I was from The Seychelles, they would look at me like I was speaking a different language.
I now understand that many Americans had, and have, never heard of The Seychelles. And I can only remember three other children who were mixed-race at that time in the Bay Area. I knew people from a variety of nationalities, but not many who were mixed. I remember wishing that I was white or black, like many of my classmates. And while there were a few other brown kids (Hispanics), I looked so different to them. When you are young, you want so desperately to fit in. I didn’t belong. I felt so alien, in so many ways.
An in the midst of this difference, I had to go through life by the name of ‘Elfa’. Everyone would mispronounce it. Misspell it. Make little jokes. If only I had a dollar/pound, for every time someone asked me if my name was ‘Alpha Omega’, then give a little chuckle! I would be a rich woman. When I was about 17, I had the idea that I would start using my middle name ‘Michelle’ when I started university. I figured that having a more ‘normal’ name would help me feel less like a freak. But something happened in the summer before I began university. A cloud of self-acceptance started to float over me.
By the time I started studying at the University of San Francisco, I felt less ashamed of my skin colour and name. It was such a diverse campus of students, and I was one of many unique individuals. I might have worn plaid shirts and Doc Martens like everyone else, but I was still different. But that was okay.
As an adult, I have embraced my multi-cultural background. And now I am raising mixed-race children of my own. Though, to be honest, most people would assume they are white. But if you ask them, they would say that they are ‘brown like mummy’ not ‘pink like daddy’. 😉 Nowadays there are loads of examples of mixed-race people all over television and film. Even the President of the United States is of mixed-race. So even if you don’t see mixed-race folks in person, you know that we are everywhere!
My family and I are lucky enough to live in an area of London that is filled with children from all backgrounds. And many of them are mixed-race. My family and I were at an Italian restaurant recently and I couldn’t help but notice that all nine families that were having lunch were mixed-race. It is such a relief that my children will grow up and not feel sad that they aren’t a particular race. We’re mixed, and that is wonderful. But also, we’re all part of the human race. It doesn’t really matter what race we are. That’s what’s really important after all.