The “Awakening” of My Racial Identity

Race is a funny thing. When we are children, race doesn’t seem to have such a big impact on who we become friends with or how we are treated by people. It seems invisible to us. That may be my privilege talking. But as I got older, I started to become more and more aware of how my race may affect me reaching my fullest potential or my goals as easily as my peers. My first memory with this concept called race was at 7 years old. I was in my small Year 2 class and we were doing an exercise in grouping – the memory has started to become fuzzy. We were asked to step to the side if we were ‘Black’, I stepped to the other side. At the age of 7, Black was simply a colour. It was not a term I had any recollection of people using to describe individuals from a certain ethnicity or cultural background. I was looked at strangely by others in my class. A look that can only be described as of confusion.  I told them I was ‘brown’, as if that was enough reasoning to say “I don’t belong in that group”. My skin is brown, so obviously I was ‘brown’, right? My teacher asked me to step to the other side. Fast-forwarding a couple of years at the age of 12. Rap and Hip Hop music started to become the most accepted music type in my predominantly black school. If you didn’t listen to Drake or Jay-Z, you weren’t cool. If you didn’t know their songs or have their albums, you were criticised. “How can you be black and not listen to Drake!” Having these accusations made it seem like my existence, my blackness, was not black enough. For a lot of my childhood years, I was plagued by terms such as, ‘Oreo’. I was having an identity crisis. I didn’t know how to be ‘Black’ or at least Black in the way that people wanted me to be. I was constantly being looked down on for my lack of ‘cultural connection’ without people realising that Black is intersectional in itself. I don’t have to act a certain way or fit a certain mould. At 13, I read Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. A book that flipped racial segregation from a British standpoint. No book has ever felt as spiritually connecting as that book. A book that gave a clear depiction and voice to the experiences black people have had to face due to institutional racism, all the way down to the microaggressions. But this was only the beginning of my discovery.

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