Tiersha

Coconut Culture

Skin colour and body image has always seemed to be something that was at the forefront of conversation when I was growing up.

I identify as a person from a mixed background, I had a white maternal grandmother so if we are going by fractions, a quarter of me is white.
However whether I identified as black or mixed race, I often was called a “Coconut”. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it means you have dark skin with the personality of a white person; clever right?

There were also other names that were used to describe me, including "yellow" because of how pale I am in comparison to my family members. And then there was my dad's favourite “Skelator!” because of my thin body. This type of “gentle teasing” filtered down to my peers who were from a BAME background too. In my experience, in Caribbean and African backgrounds having a little “junk in your trunk” is much more desirable than the skinny 90’s model look that was mainstream in the media at the time.

The teasing meant that I began to develop a complex and grew an attachment to cardigans to hide my skinny arms and I hated wearing dresses because I didn't want anyone to comment on how thin my legs were. My father used to regularly suggest that I "dress more like a girl" without realising that he was one of the reasons that I didn't.

Over the years, my parents taught me that I was black; not because my mother was disowning the white roots of my grandmother but because she was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s, in a time when the world was still very (forgive the pun) black and white. A time where if you looked “a bit black", you were black. I once questioned my mother as to why she always ticked the Black British box on diversity forms (when she was mixed race) and she replied with "that's how the world sees me". She spoke of growing up in a time where neither black or white people saw her as their kin, and how she struggled with this. At the time, I argued back, but years later I realise that my mother had a point. This became more apparent when I travelled and I saw for myself more instances of people being put into stereotypical boxes.

As a person from a mixed race back ground, I am proud to be who I am. I am a person of two races and two cultures coming together; someone who knows the values, the struggles and the fight of those who came before her regardless of how I speak or the music I listen to. So, let me be who I am, and be proud of who you are, regardless of what box the world thinks you should fit in to.

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Ashini Fernando
Member

I loved reading this article. I think it’s important to talk more about these issues. I personally am not from a mixed race background, but grew up in Italy as the only person of colour I knew. So I feel the struggle but also the benefits of experiencing two cultures in my life

Farah Mohammoud
Member

Very interesting article. Growing up, I remember the term “half-caste” being used to describe mixed race people and later learning how offensive its was. I think there was also a poem about this….

Samir Sattar
Member

Awesome article. Being from the BAME demographic myself, something that I’ve noticed growing up, especially in South Asian culture, is what I refer to as complexionism. It’s discrimination based on skin tones with really backward remarks (especially for females) based on how dark or light their skin is. But in recent years the mindset of being proud of who you are has really sparked a progressive train of thought amongst those in society. There are still some out there who keep negativity, but hopefully it won’t be long till we can all accept each other for who we are.

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