Written by Alexandra Ferry
Illustration by Kgalalelo Gaitate
I am mixed race: Jamaican and English Caucasian. My Jamaican grandparents migrated to the UK in the late 50s and growing up, my cousins were the only mixed race people I knew for a very long time.
Together, my cousins and I grappled with how to do our hair, embracing each other for our different skin tones and heritages and learning how we each individually identify as mixed race people.
What helped shape my identity was going from a majority white school to my Jamaican grandparents’ every Sunday. I began to understand the complexities of embracing two different cultures and defining who I am.
While I love my two different cultures, the fetishisation of mixed race babies and children is something I have always found to be damaging.
Throughout my life I have heard variations of the following statements:
“I will probably marry a black man just so I can have mixed children.”
“I want mixed race babies, they are so cute!”
I see friends upload images of unknown bi-racial children on their instagram stories – in awe of the child’s physical appearance.
I am not salty about people’s unfamiliarity towards this topic but passionate to make people more aware of the errors and how we can be more respectful and conscious in the future.
There are many challenges a mixed race child will face growing up and throughout their life, partly because there’s a lot of ambiguity surrounding us. I like to think of ourselves as a Rubik’s cube.
We have different cultures, traditions and ethnicities which make us whole. Throughout life we will try to connect the pieces and make one whole (square) person, all whilst society is trying to dissect who we are.
In 2019 there is an increasing amount of people entering mixed relationships.
“Close to 50% of black Caribbeans will choose a white partner.”Source: The Guardian
As an extension of this, there is also an increasing number of mixed children entering the world. There is a noticeable coverage of mixed race children from infamous families in the media to depictions in commercials and adverts.
Three of the Kardashian sisters, who dominate social media, have six mixed race children between them. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have just had their first child who is of mixed heritage. These are just to name a few but they are the most relevant names to date. Thus making it more important now than ever to address the issue of fetishisation.
Disclaimer: there is a lot more damage than you think.
Looking back, I am grateful that social media was not around when I was young to assist in shaping my identity. Fast forward to 2019 and we can see people using social media to express their unhealthy desire and fetishisation of mixed race children.
On Instagram there are multiple pages which are dedicated to sharing pictures of mixed race children who are deemed ‘beautiful’ and ‘desirable’. The majority of which have blue eyes.
I tried to locate pages for babies of a singular race but struggled to find them. Often they only had a couple of hundred followers compared to the hundreds of thousands mixed race baby pages had.
To name a couple: @mixedbabiesig and @mixedracechildren. They use hashtags such as #perfectlyblended and #childgoals. There are a plethora of problems which this raises, so let’s try to break it down.
The first problem with these pages is that they promote the objectification of mixed race children, which in turn encourages and justifies others to do so. As long as these pages remain open, people who are not culturally aware will not see the problem of following these pages and cooing over the content.
The second problem is the objectification itself. A lot of mixed race children grow up struggling to identify themselves, many feel pressured to ‘pick a side’, some may feel rejected by either or both races they are from.
To purely focus on the exterior beauty of mixed race children or people is to disregard their interior beauty, intelligence and personality. There is so much more to a mixed race person than the beauty on the outside you may be attracted to. If a young child is seeing these pages they may grow up believing that their exterior is all they have to offer the world. If you are mixed and reading this, know you are so much more!
The third problem is the false impressions, the standardisation and stereotyping of mixed beauty. A lot of these pages promote a similar look which can be damaging to those who question why they don’t have the same features. This could lead to a rejection of themselves and their differences.
The beauty of mixed race children is the variety in their appearances. Mixed children come in all shades with various features. They should know that even if they aren’t the fetishised stereotype of ‘lightskin’, they are still valued and they are still beautiful.
Your features reflect and are dependent on your heritage. Please know that there is no special formula for the creation of these wrongly idealised mixed children.
If you are mixed and disappointed that you don’t live up to these beauty standards reflected in the media, research your heritage and be proud of who you are. Your unique features tell a story like no other.
Singer and actress, Mariah Carey, has spoken more openly in recent years about her struggles as a mixed race child:
“I had to go through so much in my childhood just to feel accepted and feel worthy of existing on Earth because I felt so different from everybody else growing up, because I was biracial.”Source: Bustle
The damage goes much further.
To fetishise mixed race people is to ignore and undermine the challenges they will face along the way.
It is important to understand and address the history of mixed race people in countries like the UK which were, for a long time, predominantly white. The poor treatment of mixed race people throughout history, branding us as nomads to society who should be ashamed of their ethnic side, needs to be addressed.
It has recently been brought to light in the media that 2,000 ‘brown babies’ (white British and black American) were born during World War II in the UK.
The relationship between a white woman and a black man was forbidden during the war. The children of these relationships were born in England and the black soldiers were sent back to America. These children were often kept secret and half of them ended up in foster care.
The ‘Brown Babies of Britain’ is a heartbreaking story. The bi-racial people who have come forward to tell their stories share tales of neglect, abandonment and being an outcast. Mixed race children in mid-20th century England were not understood, they were taboo and ‘impure’.
As a mixed race person this devastated me. To grow up mixed race you will face challenges but to be disowned by your own family or abandoned must have raised so many identity issues and questions. The objectification of us today distracts us from the racist history mixed race people once encountered. By making us a type of ‘fashion’, that could go out of trend at any moment, you are completely disregarding our struggles.
To declare your desire of having mixed race children is ill-considered. The story of the ‘Brown Babies of Britain’ emphasises that, as a parent of a mixed child, there is a responsibility that comes with shaping your child’s confidence, self-worth and value.
Are you yourself emotionally and intellectually prepared for the challenges society will throw at you and your child? Are you willing and open enough to answer the multiple questions your child will undoubtedly have about their identity and heritage?
Having a mixed race child should not be seen as a ‘trend’. We are not something that should set you aside from others and make you ‘interesting’ or ‘cool’. We cannot ignore the intense racial discrimination we once faced and still face today.
Nor should having a mixed race child be seen as an end to racism. Just because people of two different races have a child, it does not mean that either the parent or the child will not encounter racism. Very recent evidence of this was the backlash Prince Harry and Meghan Markle received.
I hope we can all learn to be more respectful of people’s heritage and not objectify people who may be different to yourself. Mixed race people are so much more than an exterior shell. We are people first and foremost and deserve more respect than to be objectified.
Alex graduated with a history degree from Royal Holloway University, London. She is currently situated over in the States in Princeton, NJ, working in fashion. On the side of this, she creates makeup tutorials on YouTube and Instagram which can be found here and here.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous