Tell me a bit about yourself:
I’m Maya, I am 21 years old and I have just finished my undergrad in Psychology! As for my next steps I think I am en route into a career in teaching and later educational psychology!
I have a blog which I post on whenever I’m inspired by the world and people around me mayacuthbert.wordpress.com and I am on Instagram @mayacuthbert 🙂
What makes you different?
I am biracial, my mum is white, and my dad is black. Growing up, I felt different to a lot of the people around me, because aside from my brothers and my other biracial friends, there weren’t many biracial role models for me to look up to. I was brought up around my mum’s side of the family, and unfortunately didn’t see much of my dad’s side. My mum raised me to understand that I was going to be treated differently and I’ll always value her for being open and honest about race in the world, and as my friend Bev said, ‘she’s very woke’. She would always try and teach me about my Jamaican heritage as much as she could, be that through cooking traditional dishes, or taking me there- I could never, and will never, fault her for that, and I am so grateful to have had the upbringing I did.
Unfortunately, feeling different lies in the weird discourses there are surrounding being mixed race that you hear coming from other people who are not biracial. It is those discourses that highlight how you can feel different and almost othered by a lot of the people around you, without them even realising that it can impact you.
What is bad about why you are different?
Race was not something that played on my mind a lot whilst growing up. Having grown up in London, and being surrounded by a huge range of cultures, races and ethnicities, it just felt second nature, to have a friendship group where none of us looked the same and where everyone was accepted regardless of the colour of their skin.
I think coming to university has really opened my eyes to the fact that not everywhere is going to be like my school environments, where race is more acknowledged and spoken of. While university is multicultural, there are noticeable groups, in contrast to my school, these groups tend to be race based. My dissertation research confirmed to me that people will typically create friendships with people who share meaningful similarities, and an important similarity is race. I think it is awesome that this happens, because this can really help strengthen things such as racial identity, provide support and mutual understanding, but as a biracial person it can feel hard to fit in.
I’m glad to say that I have found my niche, my friendship group now reminds me of my groups at school, which is great, but initially it was tough. I understand that race is a sensitive subject, so I do hope I don’t cause any controversy, I am just talking about the things I have been through relating to mine- and I hold nothing against anyone.
I think in this day and age, people are really good at applying stereotypes to different races. This is something I have had to face, and it is so apparent to me. To others I have two ‘sides’ (my white ‘side’ and my black ‘side’) people seem to comment on what are actually just aspects of my personality, turn them into racial stereotypes and use them as points of criticism, where I am not allowed to be both black and white, I am always reduced to being either black or white by others. A couple of examples being that on multiple occasions I have been told that I am ‘too white’ because of how I speak, even a past partner had told me that I was too white – something he even considered trying to change within me, or breaking up with me over…I also remember once being told, when I was angry, that that was my ‘black side coming out’.
These comments, and knowing this is how people think about you, can be so damaging to your self-esteem, especially when these comments are from the two groups that make up my heritage (white and black groups), it really muddled up my feelings, and made me feel as though I was not going to fit in anywhere at university because nobody would accept me! It was even more frustrating, because in my mind, I am not either/or, I am a mixture of both and if I were to identify as one ‘side’ or the other I would be dismissing one whole part of me, and that doesn’t feel right. Those racially stereotyped criticisms really hurt me- because I was being criticised for being who I am. After hearing these things about yourself, you almost start to question who you are… and I’m sure it might sound slightly trivial to some, but I do struggle with those thoughts of like ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where do I sit?’ but most importantly, why do we live in such a modern-day society where people, REGARDLESS of their race, are still implicitly judged based on how they look?
It makes you feel so frustrated because we are supposed to live in a progressive society, but those implicit stereotypes people hold about other races, really highlight how, yes, we may have come so far, but we have clearly not come not far enough.
What is good about why you are different?
I have learnt a lot about identity, race, and society, simply because of the colour of my skin, and my existence being due to the mixture of two cultures. I think this has really helped and will continue to help me manoeuvre through life and make the right decisions about how I go about things such as teaching my own children about who they are.
I love that I have not only one, but two cultures that I get to embrace and learn about, and that I have two places I can call home. I like this idea of duality, where I am more than one thing, and although it can be confusing to manage at times, it is awesome! I am not just black, I am not just white, I am both- ergo, I am mixed, and I love it that way.
I love that, although I occasionally do have those ‘who am I?’ moments, that I can now recognise who I am, what I am here for, and why I should be and love myself, with none of this having anything to do with placing myself within one of societies concrete sorting boxes.
I don’t have to force myself to fit in with any group, I will always find other people with mindsets like mine. I must say I love that about my friendship group, we are a huge mix of races, and yet, we have such open, honest, respectful conversations about race, even when we disagree we don’t argue… we listen, we pull apart our own and each other’s ideas and thoughts and we learn from each other! I wish everyone was like that, because if people could put their differences aside and objectively talk about the issues surrounding race that everyone faces today with such understanding, I’d like to hope that the world could be slightly different.
What is one thing you want someone to take away from this article most?
I saw a quote in a journal article when I was carrying out my dissertation research and it read ‘biracial individuals are both black and white, in a world that only sees black or white’. Obviously, it is important to remember, that there are other mixes that make up a biracial individual, but this quote resonated so well with me. I would love if society could have more open and honest conversations about the reality of race in the society we live in, and that instead of trying to organise everybody into a radicalised box, that we could see each person as their own individual identity, with their own experiences of race and their own ideas and views.
A Note From Clo
Thank you so much to the lovely Maya for this insightful post! As she mentioned at the start she does have her own blog which I highly recommend you checking out! She has been writing some amazing pieces during this lockdown, so it will be a great use of any spare time you have!
The Being Different series will continue again next Thursday at 9pm. As always if you would like to get involved please contact me on instagram at Queen.clo or via the contact me form on here!
As always, stay safe and stay kind!!
All the love,
Queen Clo xx