June 17, 2024

Daisy Maskell talks growing up as a mixed race woman, recognising her own white privilege

It upset me back then because I didn’t know the answer; I didn’t really know or understand where I came from, or where part of me came from at least.

As a white woman, my mum could only educate to a certain level through toys, music, books – things that embodied culture – and that was my introduction to my black heritage, and I really commend my mum for that. But the personal experiences I missed from my black aunties, uncles, my dad – those were the things my mum couldn’t compensate for.

Everyone has issues with identity growing up, as you try to figure out who you are. For me, there was always that half of me missing. I struggled with that a lot in those teenage years, and it hurt because I was feeling so torn and desperate for connection, and I didn’t really understand why.

Growing up, I didn’t have much contact with the Jamaican side of my family; my dad’s side. My parents separated when I was six-years-old, so my mum had to take on the role as a white mother to two biracial daughters.

I grew up in a predominantly white, middle class area of North London, but my class and background did not match that of most of the other kids in my school. I first became aware of this through the amount of questions that were raised by classmates. ‘Where do you come from? ’, ‘What’s actuallyinyou? ’, or even ‘Couldn’t your parents make up their mind? ’

I am flooded with white privilege and I reap the benefits of that

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that it’s ignorant to think that you’re not constantly learning about yourself and understanding what makes youyou. I’m still discovering who I am, and there’s a lot to me that sometimes feels like an unknown, but I’ve learnt to see self-discovery as a positive, not something I should’ve already figured out by now.

Part of my self-discovery as a biracial woman is recognising just how much I have benefitted from being mixed race. Society has always perceived me as white because of my light complexion, so I am flooded with white privilege and I reap the benefits of that. My mum has never had to warn me about how to comply with the police, no matter how innocent I am; I’ve never failed a job interview based on my appearance; I’ve never had to make sure I get a receipt when shopping because I might be stopped and accused of stealing when walking out. I don’t have a target on my back every time I walk out the door.

And that is because, by society’s standards, I look like I can be trusted. The people in positions of power – the ones holding the job interviews, working as managers and CEOs, making the decisions in the justice system or police force –they see themselves in me. I feel my privilege is shown here the most because many form a positive opinion of me based on the colour of my skin, without me even having to open my mouth.

I was also always aware that being mixed gave me the option to conceal my heritage. This was apparent to me from a very early age and that was part of why I found those ‘What’sinyou? ’ questions so tough to answer, because I knew whatracismlooked like, and I knew that it was the people who looked like one side of my family that weren’t seen as desirable. My mum raising me alone meant that I didn’t have to disclose my heritage because my parents wouldn’t show up to school plays or sports days as a unit. I could choose to straighten my curls and tap into the white side of myself solely as a method of preventing judgement from my peers born into white, middle class households.

But why should anyone feel the need to shy away from any part of their identity in order to receive the same treatment as others? Even though I may never fully understand who I am or exactly where I’m from, I am proud of my heritage on both sides, and I will always use my privilege to speak up for the black community and further my anti-racism knowledge.

However, I have concerns that anti-racism conversations are now falling to the wayside. Following the death ofGeorge Floyd, I spoke to so many authors, activists and listeners calling in on the radio, and they all had the same warning. They said: ‘Who is still going to be fighting this fight when your friends stop posting about it on social media and the news moves on? ’ And they were right. As much as I didn’t want theBlack Lives Mattersolidarity to be a trend, things do seem to be going quiet.

If you’re going into this for gratification, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons

I never want to appear as though I’m preaching from a pedestal; we’re all constantly growing, evolving and educating ourselves. But to me, being a good ally to the black communitymeans continuing the conversation behind closed doors; it’s not just a post on social media to boost your engagement. It’s most important inside your own home, in your friendship group, with colleagues and family members –keep questioning and challenging racism when you see it. They’re tough conversations, but they need to happen.

It’s about consistency and commitment to the movement, to pushing the conversation forward, and understanding that doing so requires no praise. If you’re going into this for gratification, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

It’s also about education. Read books and biographies, listen to interviews and podcasts, watch films and documentaries. Discover your own resources. Don’t reach out to the black community to educate you; it’s not their job, and black people are tired. Speaking about these painful experiences is so triggering for them. The education and learning process starts with your own investment.

Remember that if you think you’ve finally ‘got there’; if you feel you’ve reached the destination of anti-racism and your knowledge is sufficient, you’ve slipped up. There is no ‘completing’ anti-racism; there is no medal or title to wear as a badge of honour. It is a constant learning process; one that we all need to be on and help each other grow along the way. This is a fight we all need to fight together.

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