“But where are you really from?”

“But where are you really from?” A narrative of Mixed Race Twins in Glasgow
 
Growing up as a set of mixed-race twins in an overwhelmingly undiverse scheme in North Lanarkshire had its perks and its pitfalls.

Our mum is White Scottish and our dad Black African (Nigerian). We have developed an adoration for both nationalities, embracing both cultures in our family home. This results in frequently mix-match dinners composed of traditional Scottish mince and tatties with plantain or yam on the side, Nigerian delicacies. As we aged, we became aware we were different from all of our friends and others around us. While this did not trouble us very much in our earliest years, we became increasingly aware of this as we matured. 

Noticing that there were no crayons that matched our skin tone when drawing in nursery school, there were no dolls or cartoon characters with our complexion; things that only come with white privilege, a privilege we don’t have. For reference, here is a photograph of us dated 2007. Please note our improved, individualistic senses of style had not yet developed at this point!

(Aleisha: Right, Lauryn: Left)

Lauryn recalls her experiences with racism, discussing how she overcame self-doubt acquired through years of racial abuse:

It wasn’t until I was around 6 or 7 years old when I truly came to the realization that my sister and I were different from our peers. When I was young, racism wasn’t something I even knew existed. As I grew up, the issue became increasingly more apparent. I remember vividly in primary school, a group of girls in the playground persistently asking me “why are your lips so big?” and proceeding to sneer and joke about the way I looked. They would ask me why my hair was “so big and puffy” and even why my skin “looked dirty”. These kind of disgusting and racist comments really took a huge toll on me growing up. I didn’t have the confidence I could have had because I became very insecure. I was different but so what! Little me would hide my African heritage for the fear of being judged however I am now at the age of 19 and couldn’t be prouder of who I am.

I think of that little girl I was and just wish to go back in time and show her who exactly I have become. If I could go back and share the wisdom I have now with that little girl, I’d do it. I would let her know that she’s a strong and beautiful African girl with so so much worth, that the world really is her oyster and she’s going to get everything she’s worked so hard for. My mission is to help anyone who may be currently going through what I was going through when I was young. If I can reach out and make at least one person feel more comfortable in their skin, I will be happy. Black is beautiful. The current ongoing Black Lives Matter movement is giving me hope. The response from the locals has been great and it’s incredible to see so many people, young and old getting involved in the fight against racism and being actively anti-racist.

 

Aleisha recalls her first experiences with racism, discussing the relevance of the BLM Movement: 

I remember the first time I experienced real vexation, pure anger, was due to racial abuse. I was around 5 years of age, so still pretty unsuspecting of a lot of issues. I was at school, I had come out into the playground after lunch. Some girls in the year below me were pointing directly at me, shouting and dancing. At first, I was unphased as I could not make out nor comprehend their tonless chanting. Listening further I recognised the lyrics: “Lauryn, Aleisha, their mum and dad are blackies”. It took seconds to cognitively digest. When it did, it stung, worse than any tangible, physical wound. I never knew words could bring about such frustration and despair. Being humiliated, ridiculed, mocked, simply because of the colour of my skin. Something I have no power over. Something I believed was insignificant. It was here that a very harsh realisation hit as I became aware of the venom deep-seated in society I recognise as Racism. Since this event, myself and my sister have experienced many others like it, being labelled almost every racial slur under the book. When asked where I am from, people would not accept my answer.

I grew up in Wishaw, Scotland but this was hard for people to believe because of my skin colour. They’d ask “But where are you really from?” as if I could not possibly be a member of the community with my skin tone. In the small town where we grew up some people remain close minded and ignorant. These experiences have left me with an ugly mental scar. To this day, I suffer serious issues with my self-esteem and still feel people judge me based on the colour of my skin. Something that is not often discussed is these long lasting impacts of racism. I feel many BAME individuals mask the self-doubt racial abuse can evoke and how it influences mental health. As a psychology student, I am considerably passionate about promoting positive mental health. I feel BAME adolescents in particular are in need of increased support and guidance going through puberty, which is already a tough time. Thankfully, the Black Lives Matter Movement has helped make people aware of the lasting impression that harmful words, discriminative behaviours and attitudes can have on people of colour, encouraging people to challenge their racist beliefs. It is my hope that other children will not encounter the same experiences I did.

 

While the events and the emotions we have described above are difficult for some people to hear about, we believe these have shaped who we are today. We are now confident and resilient young women with an ambition and consistent drive to help educate and inform other people. 

 

(Lauryn: Left, Aleisha: Right)

Our hope for the future is to see Scotland implement mandatory education on the harrowing effects of racism on the BAME community as well as the introduction of more British black history in schools. We demand change for the children who feel misrepresented. We hope to begin to see changes within North Lanarkshire and the surrounding community. More ethnic minorities in positions of power as well as more ethnic teaching staff is needed and long overdue. We want to see people that look like us represent us. Our voices must be heard. Local community support groups for BAME individuals who require support following racial abuse is something we’d like to implement in small towns like our own. Providing a safe environment for these people where their voices are heard, and their feelings matter is very necessary. We want a better life for the future generations starting from right now! As members of the black community, we are tired of fighting this same fight, this is the last time we should have to do this. Growing up and detesting the colour of our skin simply because we live in a society that consistently feeds racist narratives has made us angry. The recent events in America have made the world angry. We wish to channel this anger into something positive, a reform of the current system.

 

We have published an article in the Wishaw Press which also aims to highlight the struggles faced by ethnic minorities in Glasgow and is available to read online.