Race and ethnicity shouldn’t be an issue but I’m not ignorant to the fact that it can be.
Race and ethnicity shouldn’t be disregarded with the famous comment ‘oh I don’t see race’ or even worse, ‘I don’t see colour.’
‘Race and ethnicity’ is a ‘thing’ and one should ‘see’ it, acknowledge it and make an effort to understand it.
My race and ethnicity is a consideration.
I say consideration because I know I look different to white and black people. When I was 12 my younger (white) cousin asked me ‘why are you a different colour to your mummy,’ I replied, ‘because my daddy is black and when you mix black and white you get brown, like me.’ When I was faced with my (black) friend asking me whether I consider myself to be white or black I replied, ‘I am mixed race.’
It’s never been a battle for me to identify my race and ethnicity despite receiving questions from both white and black people. I am grateful for my upbringing to have made me so strong and level-headed when it comes to handling or explaining my race and ethnicity. And even though I think it’s sad that I ‘handle’ or ‘explain’ my race and ethnicity, that’s just the way it is.
I began to see race and ethnicity as a consideration when other people started to point it out to me, probably once I started my first ‘career’ role when I was 22. When I have walked into rooms and situations where it would only be afterwards that someone would make a remark that I was the ‘only brown person’ present. Where my friends would point out my hair or complexion to be ‘different’ and ask me questions like ‘which one of your parents is coloured’ (…to which I replied ‘my mum’s blue and my dad’s pink’ naturally).
It became apparent to me that people were considering my race and ethnicity more often than I was. That’s when I started to talk about race and ethnicity more openly and challenge myself and others on biases and encourage others to feel more comfortable talking about race and ethnicity.
It is also now that I have a little girl that I am noticing that I am taking race and ethnicity into consideration. Like all parents I’d like to send her to a ‘good school’ but when I am looking at a school, I find myself searching for children that look like me or her. It’s important for me to send her to a school that is diverse and has mixed race and black children attending as well as white and those from other ethnic origins. Why? Because I want her to grow up with race and ethnicity being something that she celebrates and that she feels connected to and a part of, not something that makes her feel like her differences single her out or, even worse, make her feel like a target.
Being born in 1989 meant that I was privy to life before being mixed or that lovely ‘caramel colour’ became fashionable...Before TV displayed mixed families in adverts, commercials and soaps...Before race and ethnicity could be openly spoken about. And even though we are still faced with prejudice, systemic racism and negative portrayals of the black community in particular, having educated conversations is one of the first steps in creating equality, respect and understanding to make real change.
That is why Black History Month should be an opportunity for people to connect, raise awareness and educate themselves. At Ascend we are showcasing content that shares experiences of black people in their personal and professional lives, how to talk about race and ethnicity and why it is so important to have conversations about diversity and inclusion. I personally believe that educating yourself will help eradicate many racial stereotypes and Black studies can inform people on history, social and economic pressures and stereotypes.
Ascend Global Media
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michaela has directed numerous high profile conferences in Europe and The USA with tremendous success. By applying remarkably high standards to all aspects of event creation and management, she has built a powerful reputation which led her to found Maddox Events, now Ascend Global Media.
Michaela has strong communication skills geared to both internal leadership and providing outstanding customer service. Her abilities to train and inspire others, manage her network and develop new connections are exceptional.
As an events producer, leader and business woman Michaela consistently demonstrates all the qualities necessary for success in the modern business world. She is an excellent multitasker and is very organised, often managing three or four projects, multiple clients and speakers in the same instance without loss to service or quality.
Michaela is an inspirational team leader, works with uncompromising dedication to her clients and boasts unwavering commitment to success, personal development, her dogs Lily and Luther and now her first child, Amelia-Lily.