'I am white-passing': Why this author wants to help children look beyond the surface and celebrate every aspect of their heritage
Published on: 21 March 2022 Author: Annette Demetriou
In her new book Me, in the Middle, author Annette Demetriou draws on her personal experiences of having dual heritage, and sometimes struggling to find a place in the world. Here she tells us her story…
I am white-passing.
It feels strange writing that, even though it’s pretty obvious. The thing is, it’s taken me quite a long time to get to a place where I’m comfortable with it.
I’m actually mixed race. My mum is white British and my dad is a black Ugandan – he’s an immigrant. And, I’m one of a number of mixed race children that have been brought up a little bit one-sided or, in a way, without seeing colour. Except children do see colour. Even though I’m sure this happened with my absolute best interests at heart, it may have done more harm than good in the long run.
Being mixed heritage and not visually fitting into a category of black, white (almost) or even mixed was difficult. I didn’t really have a real sense of where my dad was from, or his culture, so I accepted the notion that we were "people", and Dad didn’t have a colour.
We ticked along very happily as a close little family with lots of contact with my mum’s family, but very little with my dad’s. Then, one day at primary school we were essentially asked to identify ourselves by our heritage as part of a lesson in the playground.
Suddenly, I was completely lost.
It created so much uncertainty and a sad feeling of not belonging when it was negatively highlighted at the time in front of the whole class; it was presumed that my heritage must be white British. I remember feeling silly, like half a person, and sometimes like I wasn’t really anything at all. That really stuck.
Looking back, I can’t help wonder whether perhaps if I’d had a very deep and equal connection to both sides of my heritage, that I would have felt more confident in standing my ground and owning being mixed race, rather than letting people presume that I might be something else.
Let's embrace our family trees
I wrote Me, in the Middle because I was inspired and very passionate about showing that mixed race children with a black heritage come in all sorts of shades, shapes and sizes. Just like me! I wanted to tear away from stereotyping and underpin the idea that you just cannot categorise anyone at a glance, because we are all so much more than what can be seen on the surface.
As Me, in the Middle took shape, it also became very important for it to be a celebration of how families can be made up in so many different ways, showing how truly special they all are.
I would love children to read Me, in the Middle and come away feeling empowered by their heritage and taking a huge amount of joy in learning about their roots and family make up. As a parent myself, I want nothing more than for my daughter to develop a strong sense of self, and a deep respect for other family’s beliefs, cultures and traditions.
I think we can start small, by fully embracing our own family trees and going from there. Because, if we are championing who we are, our children will too, and in turn they will develop kindness and respect in abundance for others.