Ela Mesma Company

Dispora Dance Theatre

Integrating My Mixed Experience

“As a mixed person, you always represent the minority of the room you are in at any given moment. To my black friends I am the white guy and to my white friends I am the Black guy.”

Benjamin Alexander

Content warning: This section talks about systemic racism. 

When I arrived into this world, and the doctor said to my Mum ‘I think your daughter has jaundice’ my Mum replied with, ‘No, She is black.’

It was confusing growing up in the 80s in a small town like Faversham, where I was coloured in with the brown pencil (even though I knew my skin was much lighter than that), and I got called the ‘n’ word at school. But then moving to Bristol, where, standing next to my Mum and sister a school friend asked me, ‘Ella, were you adopted?’

Growing up, I really wanted to look like my sister (who had darker skin and was obviously mixed) and ‘belong’ to my family. My white assumed privilege was not something I wanted (or asked for), and I began to feel this sense of racial ‘imposter syndrome’. I had this feeling that I was an imposter throughout my teens and well into my adulthood. I believed I never quite fitted in either world, and I felt like no one understood me or why that was important to me.

There have been many moments of my life where I have ended up representing the minority in a space, and I have no problem with being outspoken in those places. I recognise that because I am light, often I have this privilege in that I probably won’t have stereotypes attached to my speaking out. When it comes to speaking out about racism, and Black Lives Matter, I always knew where I stood, who I was, what I had to say and do. But I also had these fragile feelings coming from my own painful experiences. I could feel that sometimes if my ‘belonging’ was questioned, that my identity was being cancelled, and I would go into victim mode: it was like a trauma response mechanism in my body, and I would freeze. Particularly, I had such a longing to be accepted in black spaces, and a naive (and probably privileged) view that black spaces were my spaces (because of my shared heritage and certain experiences). But then at the same time I knew and felt that I had a multitude of privileges that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I was so confused! In 2021, I took a course, The Mixed Bloom Room, with the wonderful Sarah Lotus Garrett, and began to sort all that confusion in my head out!

The Mixed Bloom Room is a course for mixed people, centring mixed-ness in a way that helps to heal from those painful traumas of growing up in a racist world. It felt important to be in a space to talk about this stuff, which Sarah calls ‘The both and’ without feeling like a really annoying light skinned person taking up way too much space when in comparison to my darker skinned sibling/comrades, my experiences were not the same/ really cannot be compared.

The course helped me to recognise and accept the privileges that being mixed can provide without feeling so much shame, and as a result I am now able to move through the world with much more consciousness, with more mixed-identity confidence and with a deeper level of activated community consciousness.

I came to Sarah ready to do the work. I wanted to deep dive into my big questions. This was a part of the ‘lead’ on my alchemical journey: knowing I had stuff to look at, and being ready to see it no matter how ugly.

These were the biggest questions that had been floating around in my subconscious before Sarah:

• Do I belong?

• Where do I fit as an often white assumed person?

• Am I taking up too much space?

• How can I be proud of my mixed identity without it becoming an all-consuming part of my identity?

And I resolved these questions and more!

I came away from the course integrated.

I understood where I was leaking all this and not being a good ally.

I finally really knew without doubt that I may pass for white, but my ally-ship is not white. 

I was able to heal some of my very real and painful experiences growing up as a mixed person. I understood that both racism and privilege are part of my experience and that neither detracts from the other.

I realised that to use my privilege for the better, I had to also accept it rather than allow the victimhood to govern my thoughts, and I decided (and am committed to) using my white assumed privilege to speak out about things like colourism.

I gained clarity on my position and how I can be proud of my mixed identity while honouring my whole self and adopting a growth mindset for anti-racism work, and accepting that this is a battle of evermore because there is so much conditioning in our society and so much unlearning to do.

That journey impacted my friendships, relationships, identity, me as a human and I have no doubt that it has been a part of the alchemy of my releasing my imposter not belonging story which I have given so much energy to over my life.

For people of mixed heritage, I would really recommend Sarah Garret’s coaching programme (The Mixed Bloom Room) as a part of their journey with coming to terms with their lead (the sticky stuff).

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