What follows is Doncopolitan’s new creative director, Olivia Jones’s, editorial for this month’s email newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed already sign up here for more heartfelt and informative content like this…
A few months ago, whilst mindlessly scrolling through twitter, I stumbled across a video of a ‘white passing’ (predominantly Eurocentric features with lighter skin – could pass for caucasian) mixed race girl trying to style her hair. Evidently she was trying to embrace the natural curl but didn’t really know what she was doing. What was worse and more heartbreaking, however, was the fact that she was being subjected to ridicule as she had clearly damaged her hair beyond repair. This is a story all too familiar to so many northern mixed race people, living in predominantly white areas. Cultural identity is often a minefield when it comes to those born of two cultures; one misstep can set off a comment that shatters the small sense of self you had finally created for yourself. “Why are you trying to be [enter ethnicity here]?” “But you don’t look [enter ethnicity here], I couldn’t tell”. I’ve left the ethnicities out here because this applies to all people of dual heritage not just black and white, I’ve also left this out because they tend to receive these micro-aggressions from both sides.
As with most instagram accounts @BLMDoncaster has shared a plethora of information about race, politics and tackling systemic inequalities, since its inception last June. One of the biggest responses we have had from followers, however, was to do with the mixed race experience. Starting with a tweet that stated “I don’t think the racism mixed race kids face from their own families is discussed enough” we then went on to dissect what that meant. When racism is not addressed within a family unit, from two or more cultures, it becomes normalised. What it can then do, is go on to have huge impact on the mental health and self image of the victims of that racism. This can manifest in a multitude of ways. In terms of appearance it can lead to surgical and non surgical procedures, even photoshop, to make their features more ambiguous. It can also lead to the aforementioned hair damage from bleaching, chemical straightening, over styling with heat and even just from lack of knowledge on how to take care of that hair type. In terms of mental health it can have a staggering influence. Being told that one half of your identity is “undesirable” cultivates an internalised self hatred that can result in either self harm or, in more severe cases, create a total separation of self. In Mind’s Against the Odds report, studies showed that people of colour who were in less diverse areas were twice as likely to develop psychosis as those who lived in more diverse ones.
We were inundated with messages from dual heritage people who wanted to share their own experiences of racism from their extended family, or friends, and the impact that had on them. Surprisingly, to me at least, was that the a large proportion of the messages that we received were from mixed race people who hadn’t realised that others felt the same way. The notion that there were so many people that were experiencing exactly the same thing but felt that they were totally alone in that was, to be quite honest, shocking to me. So I went back to the tweet and scrolled through the comments below. The same things were being said. Here was this invisible community that was totally isolated from each other despite being in the same position. In our efforts to connect on a deeper level with either sides of our heritages we have ignored the people who really understood what we were feeling.
So this issue of Doncopolitan is for you. If you have ever sat uncomfortably round the table whilst family members make racist comments, this is for you. If you have ever felt less accepted by your family than your cousins or different toned siblings, this is for you. If you have ever considered a nose job because you just don’t feel pretty with the beautiful nose you were born with, this is for you. If you’ve ever been called something racist by your friends “as a joke”, this is for you. If you’ve ever sat in the bath scrubbing at your skin because you think that will make it all stop, this is for you. If you are the child of parents who fetishised a person of colour but made no effort to introduce you to your culture or teach you how to care for your hair, this is for you. If you are the parent of mixed children and you make every effort to teach them about both sides of their heritage and how to take care of their hair, this is for you. If you have ever collared me in a smoking area to talk about curl patterns this is for you.
Olivia Jones – Creative Director, Doncopolitan
Illustration – Natasha Clarke