When I started this blog, I was surprised at how much there is to learn and write about the mixed race experience. I’m excited but also encouraged that more and more people are waking up to the idea that mixed does not mean half-caste, or confused or some or all of nothing. Although there are the struggles that mixed race people feel when out in the world battling to ‘fit in’ and identify themselves in the carefully chosen boxes that exist, there’s so much more that our mixed race kids will experience and can explore because of their multiple heritages. Here are a few of my favourites:
1st Benefit of Being in a Mixed Race Family: Exotic and Amazing Holidays (with the excuse of going to visit family)
Like any family, after we had kids it became that much more important for us that we have our families (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins) close by. We want our children to not only know their extended families but also to know where they are from, where their parents grew up, their family histories. The fact that our families live on different continents makes for some amazing holidays and a cultural experience that we may not have anywhere else- the food, the celebrations, dare I say it- the fuss made over us- all make it better than any other holiday abroad.
2nd Advantage of Being in a Mixed Race Family: The Ability to Blend In
With exposure to so many different cultural norms, our kids can easily blend in anywhere. I think they get, on a gut level, that different families, countries and cultures have different sets of greetings, languages, food and celebrations. They get it because they’ve been exposed-as part of their mixed race family- to it from such a young age. They know that when they see their Nigerian grandparents they should kneel to greet, when they see their Bababozorg (on their Iranian side), the adults greet with three kisses on the cheek and their English Grandma will give them a hug. They’ll know about respect for elders, removing shoes, different types of food and ways of behaving.
For them, it’s normal to look for the signs and follow their parent’s lead. This should get them far in life when they’re visiting new countries. They’ll expect that different cultures will do things differently and, who knows, with their myriad of cultures, they may even be familiar with some cultural practices that span different countries.
3rd amazing reason why being in a mixed race family is THE BEST: The best of both worlds
This is perhaps one of the best things I love about our mixed race family. As we’ve travelled more and lived and experienced the benefits of so many different cultures, countries, climates, and histories, I’ve realised that when people ask the question, where do you prefer to live the most? I’m stuck. I love the mountains and outdoors of Canada, the beauty and history of England, the richness and intensity of Nigeria, and the proud culture of Iran. My girls can proudly lay claim to all of these and call each one of them home.
Raising Kids in a Mixed Race Family brings with it: Open minds= Tolerance
With so much exposure to difference and sometimes conflicting ways of getting to the same end, it’s no wonder that people say that being mixed lends itself to careers in diplomacy, politics and foreign relations. Being mixed brings with it an inherent sense of tolerance and an open mind to ‘others’ because of who they are. Even where cultures and countries are at war, children born of an interracial relationship can be the healing and tolerance families and countries need.
Perhaps the best part of being in a mixed race family? Multiple festivals/ holidays and celebrations
With multiple excuses to celebrate and feast, this is by far the greatest advantage of a mixed race family. From an entirely greedy and fun-loving perspective, we get twice the number of festivals and celebrations as anyone else! For my family, we go from Nowruz (Persian New Year) to Easter in one week! If you’re Chinese, you get to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year so close together you might as well permanently eat chocolate! With so many festivals and celebrations bringing together family, friends, food and often music, your kids will get to experience the richness and diversity of multiple cultures. And that’s never a bad thing.
Sixth Benefit of being in a Mixed Race Family: An Inherent Globalised World View
My family’s everyday is splattered with jokes and comments that are indicative of a family coming from multiple cultures. When there’s a power outage in Canada, my daughter is asking, “Did Nepa take light?” (Nigerian’s way of describing the frequent electricity failures that plague the country). When winter comes in England, my daughters want to know if they can go shovel the snow like we do in Canada. And when we have rice, the girls want to know if they can have the biggest piece of tahdig (Iranian crunchy bit at the bottom). People we meet and their behaviour they see are always accompanied by questions about where they’re from- near Nigeria? Close to Canada? Or “look Mum, they’re speaking farsi!”
And finally, last but not least: A mixed race family is unique (we stand out but that’s a good thing!)
Whether you believe in all the hype about mixed race kids being especially cute is irrelevant because one thing that you can’t argue is the look is interesting. Pictures of brown skinned kids with blonde curls are interesting because they break the mold of what we’re used to seeing. Blue eyed black girls or Asian boys with a mixture of black and Asian features stand out. Apart from the look, I met some Asian mixed kids speaking fluent farsi with their Persian father coming home from school. It made me do a double take but it made me proud as well that mixed families come in all shapes and cultures and from everywhere. That it’s not just races that blend but cultures, languages, heritages and histories. What a world we will live in in 20 years time if this continues!
The other day my husband of 7 years asked me ‘do you identify as ‘other’?’ His question was in response to a moment me and my girls had experienced earlier that day. I’d felt defensive and self-conscious while walking through the English countryside and being asked (multiple times) whether we ‘belonged’ there or… “are you lost????” definitely made me feel like an outsider. I knew it was too subtle to call it racism but it definitely felt uncomfortable and something I knew I wouldn’t have experienced if I was on my own.
The topic of racial fluidity has been raised several times in the last couple of years. Recently, Paris Jackson called herself black through her relationship with her tenuously ‘biological’ Dad Michael. And of course the controversial Rachel Dolezal, who has called for black identity to be ‘fluid’ and non-binary in the same way gender is. With more questions being raised about how identity is formed and racial constructs that lie behind it, the question whether it is possible to identify as something other than what you are through one’s relationships has intrigued me.
I am part of a multiracial family, the majority of whom are black, or who will be viewed as black by society. Apart from my daughters and my husband, I am the only white face you see in my family. So, not to feel any sense of identity by virtue of osmosis or relationship would be impossible. Or, at least for me.
I have heard of other spouses who have non-white partners who become sensitive to the subtle racism that their partners feel on a daily basis. The wake-up to white bias is shocking and infuriating when it comes to the ones you love.
The first time it happened for me was when we entered a jewellery shop early on in our relationship. Soon enough I noticed a security guard as well as the shop floor assistant following hubby closely while he perused the rings. I, on the other hand, was not even noticed. Or, shall I say, after a few minutes, they did offer to help me but completely ignored hubby-to-be apart from the stares. I felt defensive and angered as though it were happening to me.
The experience and many like it have rocked my understanding of our world. Yes I knew racism existed. I wasn’t that naive but when you experience it and you become the object of it through your partnership (that was later on), you start to identify with it.
Since then, my children and I have felt the oh-so-subtle effects of middle class racism. The stares, the indignant looks that you may not belong in ‘this’ park- nothing major but enough to waken me up to the some of the realities of being non-white.
So yes, I guess in some ways I do identify as something other than what I am. I still have white privilege and I’m not naive as to think I know exactly what it is to walk in the shoes of a black person. But by virtue of my relationship. Because my family is black. Because I am part of a black family. And because my identity is multi- layered, my identity as a mother of mixed race kids and as the wife of a Nigerian man is intertwined.
After all, it can’t hurt to consult with a professional even it’s just to get some advice about hair type, products specific to your child’s hair texture and how to keep it moisturised, how often you should wash it, what products work and what doesn’t…
So give them a call today and make an appointment. And do let me know if I’ve missed any! This list is only as good as you, my readers comments!
If you’ve got curls, coils or waves, then Matthew James is your go-to stylist!
Matt specialises in cutting, styling and caring for naturally curly hair.
In fact, he loves curls so much he focusses solely on cutting and styling textured tresses – the first stylist to do this in the UK.
Matthew is committed to giving his customers the best experience possible and will always start every appointment with a thorough consultation. If you love colour ask Matthew about the bespoke, curl-by-curl colour service to really make your curls pop!
Curl specific products are used in the salon to cleanse, hydrate and style – so no need to worry about harsh sulphates stripping your curls or silicones sealing out moisture!
At Klassic Koncept we are very happy dealing with all types of mixed race hair and have a wealth of personal experience and expertise to pass on to you,
Mixed race hairin particular and curly hair in general can vary in curl pattern and texture all over the head. Hair at the nape maybe very different from hair at the crown. What is required is attention to detail and careful analysis as the various areas of the hair will need to be treated and conditioned in different ways. We are confident that how we work with your hair will allow you to manage it and wear it with pride.
Whether you want to “Embrace your bounce”, straighten or colour we can guide you in the right direction. We won’t be judgemental about whether you want to be curly or straight – it’s your hair and a beautiful accessory, not a political statement. We also don’t get too hung up on curl types, it makes no sense when the hair varies from one area to the next. It’s sometimes useful as a general description but serves no purpose in the actual decision with what to do with your hair. Far more important is the texture and with mixed race hair a common error is that often density is taken for coarseness, when in fact the exact opposite is true. Each head of hair is individual and what works for one may not work for another.
Need help with your curly hair? Here at Nuala Hair Studio, Bristol’s best hair salon, we love cutting, styling and colouring curly hair. Whether your curls are fine, medium or thick we are here to help. We understand that your hair has different needs to straighter hair. We understand that the shape is very important to you, the texture is doing what you want, and we will listen and guide you through style, maintenance and home care. We can offer excellent curly hair advice using specialist hair products that will work for you. We love to give you great tips on how to get the best out of your curl using good techniques that aren’t difficult!
Cococheno hair salon is Bristol’s leading multicultural Afro/European hair salon outside of London. We are a reputable salon committed to providing the best product and excellent service to all our customers.
Our friendly team has over 20 years experience constantly staying in touch with the latest trends and learning new techniques. With a reputation for excellent service Cococheno strives to maintain a high level of customer care with an in depth consultation and achievable styles personalised for you and top tips to maintain your style at home. Experience pure pampering in stylish and friendly surroundings.
Our creative team has a vast knowledge working with Afro, European, curly and multicultural hair. We offer a full range of hairdressing services including styling, cutting, colours, relaxers, texturisers, perms and the Yuko hair straightening system.
If you have got curly hair you’ll understand. Curly hair needs to be treated differently and with #Vickyqueenofcurls (google it!) you’ll find a stylist that is an expert in the personal nature of curly hair. Of course, every client’s hair is different, but this is especially relevant when it comes to curly hair.
Our Curly Hair Service, in our Manchester salon is part consultation, part dry cut and part aftercare advice. #Vickyqueenofcurls comes highly recommended and is Manchester’s foremost expert in the intricacies of Curly Hair Treatments.
You’d be amazed how often clients with naturally curly hair have come to us in despair of ever finding someone who can deal with their hair type. The level of bounce and the texture of naturally curly hair can throw a few curve-balls at you!
However, we LOVE curly hair and all its challenges. In fact if you know what you’re doing it’s not so much of a challenge.
Scott – our resident curl expert says : ” With curls you have to take into account that the overall shape of the style may change depending on how curly the hair is on that particular day and also that the client might want to also wear their hair straight so you still need precision cutting – I often cut curly hair dry, so I can see the shape that I want to end with – then I get the hair cleansed and treated and go for the detail of the cut.”
Faye Lawless Hair are the curly hair experts. Frustrated curlies fear no more. We are here to help you manage and celebrate your curls. We offer the complete curly hair care experience from cutting curly hair in the right way, colouring, curl smoothing and the all important home styling and after care advice.
Our out of town hair studio in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne is a place of creativity and style, and possibly the friendliest professional hair salon in Newcastle. We are confident that you will find no where better for your personal and professional hair design solutions for men and women young and old; hair styled, hair cut, hair up, hair perm, hair straight, hair curly, dry cut, blow dry, roots or hair colour, coffee or tea, at your hairdressers Newcastle.
Our style team are chosen for their expertise, passion and creativity. Hair is as individual as our fingerprints, and we know it is important that you get the cut and colour that enhances your style. Our ladies’ and gentlemen’s hairdressing services are tailored individually to give you beautiful, natural and manageable hair every day.
Curl Love, Azzini Hair 3 high street, Botley, Hampshire, SO302EA
From ‘curl coaching’ to colour to intensive hydration treatment, Curl Love has great reviews and it’s easy to book an online appointment.
We are proud to say that we are rapidly becoming the curly hair specialists of the north, with clients that travel far and wide to visit it us. Our main aim is that you enjoy your experience our relaxed, but professional approach to hair and beauty. Lead by multi award winning, and Avlon educator, Serena Giscombe, the Made family are approachable, empathetic and knowledgeable.
Every client of “The Cutting & Colour Room” is a real life testament to our professional craft of cutting, shaping, and styling hair in way that reveals our clients natural good looks. Curly, thick locks, or fine and straight – “The Cutting & Colour Room” has the creative talent and exceptional skills to help you look amazing.
We know what it’s like to struggle for YEARS with curls until you learn how to embrace them and look after them. That is why at Kate Preston Hair in Fareham (Hampshire) we made it a priority to become Curly Hair Cutting Specialists.
We understand curly hair has special needs and it takes a special skill to cut it well. You must know how to look after your curls. So many people just don’t have a clue how to manage them well and are left struggling with their hair!
If you want to trade your frizzy unmanageable curls for drop dead gorgeous sexy curls then Kate Preston Hair and Beauty in Fareham is the place to come.
“I’m Nikki Sampson and my passion is to help other curly ladies embrace their natural curls. For many years I was never happy with my curly, frizzy hair , apart from the 1980s when even I had perms! I was always on the lookout for the miracle product that would change my relationship with my hair. Unfortunately the hairdressing industry as a whole treats curls as if they are the same as straight hair. There is virtually no specialist training available and many products which are marketed at curly hair are a big let down and a waste of money. I had to travel many miles to find a hairdresser who understood curls and didn’t want to straighten them or fluff them up.
This inspired me at the grand age of 51 to take the plunge to go to college and train in hairdressing so that I could then go on to specialise and help curly ladies rediscover and love their curls. I spent six months travelling to London one day a week to work for and learn from curl specialist Lindsey Hughes, before completing an advanced level 2 DevaCurl course in New York last November.”
*Disclaimer: I haven’t tried each and every one of these UK curly hair salons but I did scour the internet for good reviews and recommendations from fellow curlies. Leave your comments below if you’ve tried any of these and what your experience was like.
Colorism in the black community happens all the time but how does it affect mixed race and biracial families and kids? It has a devastating effect among siblings and can affect families even more…
Butterscotch, chocolate, vanilla, hot fudge and caramel. No, not the local ice cream shop menu, these are the five sweet sensations my four year old uses to describe her family’s skin tones. It’s cute because she’s sort of matter of fact about it.
Just as ice cream comes in different flavours, so do we.
Fortunately for my daughter, she started to become aware of skin colour in a country where the majority were dark-skinned black. We were living in Nigeria when she had just turned two, she went to an international school where many children were from mixed cultural backgrounds and it was normal to have parents from two, sometimes 3 or 4 different racial backgrounds. So she had a very healthy sense of diversity.
Unfortunately, however, I soon discovered a new ‘ism’ that is not far from racism in its harmful effect. And it’s what awaits her as she does become more conscious.
Colorism in the Black Community
‘Colorism’ is the term widely used to describe what happens within non-white racial groups when lighter skinned people are favoured, considered more beautiful and often more successful because of it. It is just as pervasive, if not less subtle, as discrimination is in the northern hemisphere. And just as painful to witness.
Our experience in Nigeria on the whole, was positive but it did have its setbacks. My daughter was noticed by Nigerians everywhere, not because she was smart or funny but because she had ‘beautiful long curls’. After my second daughter was born however, we experienced something slightly different. My middle daughter has auburn hair and lighter skin. For a mixed child, my older daughter is relatively dark. When the comparisons started, right in front of both of them, I started to become conscious that even within the black community, there will be questions.
To be honest, I’d never even thought about different shades of brown until I had my first child. It was soon after her birth here in England that the comments came. Nothing negative but certainly people noticed and commented that she is darker skinned, a recessive gene inherited perhaps from my biracial background being half Persian.
A year later, we travelled to Nigeria on holiday and I was waiting in the airport with my daughter. A woman approached and asked if she was mine. I answered yes. With a look of disapproval, she sneered that my husband must be ‘very dark’. I didn’t understand what had just happened but soon realised I was meant to take that as an insult. For me, it was perhaps just a fact. ‘Thank you’, I said naively. That was my first experience of colorism in the black community.
Colorism still exists… no matter how far we’ve come
Skin colour politics still dominate many developing countries left over as it were, from colonial or even slavery days in America where lighter skinned folk were favoured by colonials and often educated and bestowed more prestigious jobs. While darker skinned people were given the back breaking work. The legacy of their colonial pasts still persists in places like India, Latin America and Africa where you might see lighter skinned celebrities and news readers. Even soul-destroying skin bleach products are still in rampant demand. While more labour intensive jobs remain mostly filled by darker people.
In the West, it’s definitely more subtle and only persists, as far as I can tell, in the positively spun comments made about mixed race babies being the most ‘beautiful’ and ‘so cute’. Understandably, there is a still a lot of anger about colorism within the black community that the concept of beauty is still very much dominated by light skinned black folk with loose curls. Colorism in the black community still very much exists today.
I can say that my daughter is singled out here but more so because of her curly black hair which ‘drops’ while my middle daughter’s hair is a much thicker texture and grows more like an afro style might.
All of my three have different skin shades and I love the way my darling daughter describes us in delicious flavours. But I’m also very aware that she is beginning to notice skin shades in greater depth. She notices that many of her role models are ‘vanilla’- her mother, her teachers, her swimming instructor, Elsa and Anna… Sure, she has a few black mentors but her life is dominated by folks who don’t look like her.
My sister’s children, who are mixed South Asian, Iranian and a quarter white are both very light skinned. Her oldest is even able to pass as white. This, in itself, brings with it other issues where people assume a darker skinned mum might be the nanny and not her parent.
How do we encourage our children to love the skin they’re in?
Living in London is probably one of the most diverse places we can go to expose our children to people of all different ethnicities, skin tones and racial backgrounds. Although white people are the majority, with effort, our kids will have many people to which they can associate positive attributes to darker skin: their dad and extended family being major players in that.
When my kids ask the inevitable question about why they don’t have lighter skin, I want to have an open discussion about colorism and why that’s important to them. We’re conditioned from a very young age to see skin colour. And that’s okay. But the social meanings and how we educate our children is up to us.