'I'm a mixed-race woman. Meghan Markle just nailed how it feels not to 'fit in'.'

Watching the Harry & Meghan documentary last Friday night, I was shouting "YES! Exactly!" at the TV when Meghan said, "People don’t talk about what it’s like to be mixed race. So much of my self-identification was trying to figure out where I fit in. A lot of that is 'you’re not white enough or you’re not black enough.' But I don’t see the world that way."

Okay, it was my phone rather than the TV because I was watching in bed, and I was only shouting in my head, because waking a sleeping toddler is never a good idea. But the sentiment remains: Meghan Markle, one of the most influential people in the public eye, has shone a light on a gap in the conversation about race and racism. And that is: what it feels like to be of mixed descent.

My dad is a true Viking-heritage English; fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed. My mum is Fijian-Indian, our ancestors Kashmiri.

Never a day in my life have I felt 'white'. But I’ve also never felt Indian.

What I feel and what I am is a mixed race. Or as my family affectionally calls it: a fruit salad!

Of course, Meghan Markle is referencing a divide and experience of racism far beyond what I will ever know or experience. I don’t claim to have first-hand experience of even a fraction of what she is saying. What I do appreciate is that she’s starting a conversation; a conversation that will be as nuanced to each mixed-race person as their cultural and ethnic background.

Watch: The official trailer for Harry and Meghan. Story continues after video.


Video via Netflix.

It might have had something to do with the amount of time I spent outdoors sans sunscreen (sorry, future me), but I was a lot darker growing up. One of my earliest memories is of a little boy at kindergarten saying to me, "You’re not going to Heaven because only white people go to Heaven." As I got older, the comments were rooted more in curiosity but never failed to call me out as 'other': "You’re so exotic!", "Where are you from?", and my personal favourite: "What are you?". What am I? Why, despite my very best attempts at curling up in the sun like a cat, I am indeed human thank you very much.

Once, in the pre-Tinder days, I went on an online date with a man who thought I was white. After explaining my background, he said to me, "One of the reasons I like this dating site is that I can filter my matches based on their looks and race. For example, I would never date an Indian girl." And he promptly left me at the bar, with my jaw hanging on the ground.

Don’t get me wrong: I recognise the privilege that comes from – literally – not wearing my racial identity on my skin. I am white-passing, so any casual racism I’ve experienced pales in comparison to the outward racism and ingrained discrimination others face daily.


What I don’t often hear talked about though is the confusion that comes from not fitting into a defined check box. And I mean this literally, as well as figuratively. When you fill out any kind of form, there are options listed to identify your ethnicity and often ‘mixed-race’ is one of those. But that minimises my identity; my mixed-race is not the same as another’s mixed-race. My identity as part Fijian-Indian is something I’m immensely proud of, but it means I don’t neatly fit into a box. That date I went on? The website’s form didn’t have a mixed-race box, so I had defaulted to 'white'.

These days, I look much more Caucasian. But my cultural heritage is something I’m proud of, so I’ll often make a point of telling people I’m half-Indian. This need to assert my identity is because it’s part of who I am, and it feels unrecognised.

Last year, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. For nine months, I pictured holding an olive-skinned, dark-haired little bundle. The only question was whether her eyes would be blue or brown, having equal odds of either (according to the highly trust-worthy scientific quiz I found on Google).

So, I was astonished to be handed a platinum blonde, blue-eyed, fair skinned baby. Where we’d always assumed that the darker hair genes would win out (again, thank you Google), she is instead the spitting image of her maternal grandfather, and her father. She is now entering the rambunctious stage of toddlerhood, just as blonde, just as fair. I have no idea how to protect skin this fair, so if you see the kid at the beach with every inch of skin covered up and still being hidden in the shade by her mum, that’s probably us.


Where I’ve often felt the need to assert myself as being mixed-race, I now feel this tenfold for my daughter. Her colouring is just as surprising to everyone who meets her as it was to us. Most people comment on her hair and her eyes, especially in comparison to my dark hair, olive skin and brown eyes. She is identified as ‘other’, but only in relation to me. I can see that my little girl’s identity will be minimised as mine is now, and I’m quick to assert her status as part Fijian-Indian.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud to know what Mia, Holly, and Jessie thinks about the Harry and Meghan documentary. Story continues after podcast.

My parents did a fabulous job of bringing me up with experiences from both their backgrounds, and I want my daughter to have the same. While she’ll largely be growing up in Western culture, I hope she’ll have many chances to celebrate Eid with her cousins and learn to make crab curry the way her Nani does. And where it counts most, she is lucky because she will not just have a front seat to but instead be immersed in the lesson that colour and religion don’t define whether a person is good or bad.

Because of her colouring, she will hopefully never experience casual racism directly. But I still anticipate that one day she will wonder where she fits in. So, in the meantime, I hope to see more celebration of and more conversation about what it means to be of mixed ethnicity.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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