Is ‘British Asian’ a mixed race identity?

My blog has been woefully neglected over the last couple of months. The truth is that I’ve been struggling to relate with my British Asian audience, and indeed my British Asian- self. Since starting up this blog, I’ve come to realise that I am myself not a typical British Asian at all. I don’t watch Bollywood films, listen to Hindi music or much Bhangra. I don’t tweet in Punjabi or go to big family functions over the weekend.

But then I asked myself: are these things what define one as being British Asian these days?

What about the fact that I was born in the Indian subcontinent, was raised by Asian parents, identify with other Asians, love Indian food, clothes and culture, am passionate about Asian issues and the British Asian community?

But then there are days when I feel so disgusted with the double standards of our community. The pressure to conform, the expectations of our parents that stem from their desire to maintain some link to the mother-land and keep up appearances with relatives back home. Sometimes I love how freeing  it is to also be a bit British. By marrying out of the community, I have none of the drama that comes with Asian in-laws, I am free to raise my daughter as I wish. I am free to make my own decisions about whether I work, cut my hair, attend functions or not. (All of these do come with stick that I get from my own parents, but deep down they know that as a married woman, they no longer have that kind of control over me.)

Oh but the conundrum is that some days, when I’m with my English friends, I feel like an on-looker, even an intruder. Did you know I ate my first Yorkshire pudding when I was in my 20’s? I was raised on rice and curries for goodness sake! There is so much about being British (or English) that is often completely alien to me.

I guess being of two cultures will always mean that you identify with both but never solely with either one. You get the delicious experience of dipping in and out of both, which often makes you feel like you belong to neither but gives you the advantage of taking or leaving the bits you do and don’t like.

My daughter is mixed race. When she was little I worried that it would be hard for her to understand her identity and the fact that she belongs to two different cultures. But it seems that I myself have had some experience in this- all my life in fact. So maybe I can give her a helping hand with it all…..

Do you belong to two (or even more) cultures? Are you in a mixed race marriage? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Read my response to this post “What Kind of Asian are You?”

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7 thoughts on “Is ‘British Asian’ a mixed race identity?

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I too am mixed race. My experiences have not been very good but then I did grow up in the late 70’s and 80’s. Glasgow was not very welcoming of Asians and less so of the children some of them had with white women. Growing up we were the minority and had to tick ‘other’ on official forms to describe our ethnicity. Thankfully times have changed and it pleases me no end that there are now over 1 million mixed race people in Britain.

    • Thanks Shaziab! So glad you enjoyed reading.
      I’m sorry that you had a difficult time growing up… I remember back in the 80’s people laughing at the smell of our cooking, at my mum in a sari…Now? Curry is the nation’s favourite food and Bollywood and it’s fashion are considered cool.
      Britain and British people have come on leaps and bounds in terms of multiculturalism and now I’m proud to say we are considered part of the fabric of this country!

  2. Not only am I loving your blog, but I think I’m addicted to it! I appreciate your voice and think you’re doing a wonderful job exploring these issues.

    With regards to the mixed race aspect – I am Afro-Carribbean & British mixed married to an Asian-European mixed – both raised in Britain. I think in terms of how one identifies one’s self depends on your upbringing, and your exposure to the cultures that you inherit. I see myself as both but I do understand when others see themselves as identifying with one culture than the other.

    What you said about Parents wishing to seem as though they’re still connected with the culture back home made me giggle. They do don’t they? I reading about this once, and often the idealism portrayed of the culture back home including some cultural values that their generation was instilled with growing up has evolved albeit they don’t sometimes see that themselves. I know it has in my side especially when your parents were pretty much raised by strict grandparents during their upbringing.

    If Im totally honest – there’s a lot of food I’ve most probably still yet to taste on both sides and I don’t like most of the food on either side anyways (prefer Mediterranean/North African Cuisine). So please don’t feel bad about the yorkshire puds (they’re gross as are pancakes! lol) – on the otherhand I love curries (asian & carribbean), Parotha, Chippatties etc.

    My struggle is how will I do all the cultures I love justice so that my child grows up being a citizen of the world?

  3. Thanks Emma! I started this blog as I couldn’t find anyone talking about these sorts of issues. One of my hopes in doing so was to connect with people like yourself as I’d love to hear more about your cross cultural experiences.

    Also think you might like this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15164970- all about Britain’s mixed race community as revealed by the recent Census.

    Look forward to chatting more

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog! I am glad you raised this question. I guess its one of the interesting topic that is not often spoken rather its brushed under the carpet. You have been a voice for those people and I appreciate you for that.There are many people living in such confusion and its very stressful when we live in a society where we are constantly judged so much.

    Life was not easy for me when I settled with my family in UK it was really difficult to mix in with the British culture whilst being brought up in an Indian culture. Youth like me are often torn into two worlds and there is never a set identity as we become part of the two cultures. Freedom and control are two big things which relate when living a double identity life.

    I am 3rd year Social Work Student researching on a similar topic about the lives of people living in two different worlds and how this affects them. i would like to ask your permission if I could, to use your views as a source of data as part of my research? All the views will be anonymous to protect every persons identity.

    i would look forward to hear from you..

    • Hi Navya. I’m glad you enjoy the blog!
      Certainly the whole ‘culture clash’ thing is an issue. I think teenagers really feel the pressure of it, in trying to figure out who they are. I hope things have got a bit easier for you in this area in the time you’ve been living here? For me personally, I found a lot of freedom in making up my own mind on issues of identity and letting go of what others think of me. I no longer care if some Asians think I’m gora-fied (too white) or some English people can’t understand my culture and identity as an Asian- you can never please everyone but you can have clarity in your own mind as to who you are. It’s been a life’s journey so far to get to this point! Have a look at a very recent post on my blog called “How Asian are you?”, its a kind of updated version of this post. I think you’ll enjoy it.
      With regards to the research, please get in touch with me at editor@britishasianwoman.com and we can talk more about how to quote and reference any of my material you use.
      Thanks for reading and following Navya.

      • Hi! I have just happen to read your post and revisit your blog. I have emailed on the address you gave me. I hope you received my email. Thankyou so much for getting in touch and suggesting a recent post of yours. I will leave you my email Id just incase you didn’t get my email. 1107552@chester.ac.uk .

        Thanks,
        Navya

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