The UK vs the Mixed Race
Nikesh Shukla’s article for the Guardian in 2018 explored the complicated relationship between those of mixed heritage and wider society. Shukla noted how mixed-race children have been hailed as the future of society: set to do great things such as end racism once and for all. Though many mixed children have grown up to be successful in life, I don’t believe that any of us can claim fame for ending racism. Racism, still very much exists today. How can any one group be responsible for ending a millenniums worth of discrimination? If we are ever to end racism, the effort must be collaborative. The concept of a ‘Beige Britain’, a utopia where no one sees colour and the mixed-race swoop in like superheroes to save the day, is a fantasy. Even now in 2019, mixed-race people, the supposed defence against racism are under attack.
I have always believed that the UK was a diverse country, full of many different people from different backgrounds. I guess being born and raised in London – the most colourful, melting pot of a city – has led me to believe that anyone, from anywhere can coexist. Despite an influx of immigrants and the rise of inter-ethnic relationships, those of us who aren’t White still only occupy a small space in society. ‘Beige Britain’ is still a far-off dream. According to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million, and 86% of the population was White. To put that into perspective, the population of Mixed-Race people in the UK was 1,224,400. We only make up 2.2% of the population.
No matter how much diversity we have achieved as a society, we still have far to go. Though we are by no means social pariahs anymore, mixed race people in the UK still face racial hardships. We - the so-called poster children for tolerance - struggle in finding our place within society. We are often met with ridicule, confusion and insensitive questions about our origin and ‘what’ we are. People seem to feel like they have the right to comment on our appearance, our origins and our place in society. Nothing shows this more than the incident involving Danny Baker. The former BBC Radio presented was sacked in early May of this year for his racist tweet about our newest Royal baby. Baker’s tweet caused outrage from the onset from wider society and within the mixed community. Afua Hirsch, a broadcaster, writer and former barrister of mixed heritage showed her contempt for Baker by highlighting how his tweet was “the most blatant, clear-cut example of racism”. The tweet shows a chimpanzee in a bowler hat holding hands with and walking between a white man and woman. Baker titled the picture ‘Royal baby leaving the hospital’. Gaby Hinsliff – writing for the Guardian – questions how Baker could have been so obtuse. ‘Let’s assume that even after a lifetime immersed in football, a sport where black players have been routinely taunted with monkey noises down the years, he still didn’t make the connection; that, as he says, he was only trying to make some point about “royals v circus animals”. Perhaps it was just the sort of mistake anyone could make, if they somehow hadn’t clocked in all these years of blanket coverage that Meghan Markle was mixed race.’ The exasperation is clear in Hinsliff’s writing. How can anyone possibly still hold these views in 2019? How can someone be so closed minded and not realise that the words they say have a deeper meaning? That anyone of mixed heritage – young children and adults alike – would see this and feel that in the eyes of others, we are nothing more than monkeys.
Likening a child of mixed origin – a new-born no less – to that of an animal is unforgivable. This tweeted shocked the world with its archaic view of those who are born and deemed ‘other’. We were shocked, but unfortunately not that much. As much as we would like to believe it, Danny Baker’s tweet was not an isolated incident. Mixed-race people are often reduced to a fetish. The critic, Amelia Defalco writing on the fetishization of women of colour notes that ‘a history of primitivism (both social and scientific), […] functioned to produce a modern perception of the black female body as a sexual fetish.’ Not only are a lot of mixed-race women reduced down to sexual objects but a significant amount of mixed race men experience constant discrimination through Police tactic of Stop and Search. This tactic is focused primarily on young men rather than women. The statistics focusing on those of Mixed White/Black African and Mixed White/Black Caribbean descent show that for every 1,000 people, 17 people are stopped and searched in 2019, in comparison to 3 people of White British descent. These statistics and criticism clearly shows how, even in 2019, racism is still highly relevant and Danny Baker’s tweet is not an isolated incident.
These statistics highlight the systematic discrimination against mixed race people in this country. People who share these views with Danny Baker exist all over London and cannot be held as being representative of the United Kingdom as a whole. The question remains about how we combat this racism, in a world where the mixed population is growing but the attitudes are not changing. As a mixed race woman living in this country, I have experienced this discrimination first hand and hope for the day that those of us from mixed backgrounds find our place in society. But the pressure for change cannot all be placed on us. We are not the answer to racism. We are people. We are not animals. We are not a fetish. We are a part of this country and always have been. Mixed race people are here to stay and Danny Baker cannot, and will not change that.
Amelia Defalco, ‘Jungle Creatures and Dancing Apes: Modern Primitivism and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand’, Mosaic, 38.2 (2005): 19-35.
Photo Credit - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Little_Rock_integration_protest.jpg