Identity & I

Amy Sands looks at her own experiences of privilege and inequality growing up white, working-class and compares it to that of her dual heritage daughters…

Growing up, white, working class, on a council estate, gave me a good insight into how white privilege works. I have faced barriers in terms of financial and cultural challenges. I have also had the opportunity to bridge this because I am white. It has been easy to blend in and progress.

Around me, other people from my background sometimes don’t understand. When they are challenged there can be confusion, how can they be referred to as privileged? We are not being asked to compare ourselves with white upper class and affluent households, it’s about recognising our individual privilege.

I remember hanging out in our local park during my teens, non white kids got stared at and were made to feel not welcome. It was hostile, especially at the time where asylum seekers were housed on the estate. I felt enraged even then, and very thankful that my parents were not at the extreme level of other families. I was allowed to play with who I wanted.

Attending a mostly white working-class primary school, on reflection, did not prepare me for what I experienced in Secondary years and beyond. The demographic was different in my Secondary school, and I felt different to my white counterparts, coming from more well-off families, and living a life that I was so unfamiliar with.

I rejected that, and found solace within groups where I felt more connected and happier. I feel incredibly grateful that I was able to be part and make valuable friendships with mostly black females that both enriched my life and allowed me to progress on a journey with being anti-racist, with what now seems less struggle for me, than those who seclude and surround themselves in white circles.

With those relationships and placing myself as the only white person within groups, I have witnessed racism and its effects. Through adolescence I have been arrested, been in dangerous situations, and quite honestly, I have been protected by those systems, given a pat on the back, treated as though I wasn’t responsible for my actions because I am white and female.

Fragile and feminine it is perceived because of racist ideology and what we are fed through media, education and family. There have been painful moments when the rawness of racism has hit me in the chest. Instances when my relationship as a mixed couple were stripped back to sex. The black man’s body being sexualized and objectified. Like the relationship had no other basis or level.

Both my daughters’ school experiences have been different to that of my own, they have had more barriers and face challenges that I would love to dismantle. My white nephew and my daughter attend the same school. Looking at the school reports, after completing a test, my daughter was predicted lower although achieving higher on examination. These statistics I have heard about, but feeling it is different. We can hear and ignore as white people; we can have that option.

In some circles in the park for instance, it feels like my daughters’ are invisible. Young children with prejudices already at play. It triggered the feelings I remember from the the park, those feelings and hostility around asylum seekers

I became a single parent after fleeing domestic violence, with my daughters, then aged 5 and 8. At that point I felt an overwhelming fear that my situation would be judged again, and that it could be used in a racist narrative. I don’t want my situation used in any way to support that. I have had conversations where I have had to defend, as I’ve been told this was what to expect. This is what happens. Lived experiences become shaped and defined by demographics.

My priority is my daughters’ understanding of their multiracial identity and taking care of their mental health. I have met and heard white parents with multiracial children say that they haven’t experienced racism. I find it problematic and, in my opinion, degressive of any change that we need in society. How can they speak of something they chose to ignore or deny?

Moving forwards as a multiracial family, I would love education and the restructuring of systems to be at the forefront of change. When the family dynamic cannot support a child’s identity, organisations and schools should do more. I think more work needs to be done in white working class communities to support education in racism, it’s effects and impact. It would be beneficial as to not facilitate trauma and place responsibility on the oppressed to act and make change.

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