It's Not So Black & White: mixed-race experiences (Henrique)

This blog post series features three mixed-race people with completely different racial and nationality backgrounds and who share their accounts of what it is like to be mixed-race: Sabrina, Henrique, and Alicia. Here, we have:


Hello everyone! My name is Henrique, and this is my second interview with Let's Talk Racism. (You can read Henrique's experience with racism here)

What is your racial mix?

My mix is Portuguese and Angolan. But after doing a DNA test, I found out that I have: North, East, and West African blood, a sprinkle of the Centre, and then we have South Europe and a bit of North/East Europe. And let's not forget the extremely rare Melanesian blood; I barely have any of that.

Again, Portuguese and Angolan.

Do you feel connected to one or some more than the other(s)?

If we're talking about ethnicity, no. But if we're talking about culture, I do identify myself more as a Portuguese man than Angolan. The reason why is that I grew up in Portugal, and a lot of who I am has been shaped by that culture - then a twist of UK culture as I moved in here while I was a teenager.

I did live in Angola for 3 years, so I experienced that culture as well. I can say that I used to be more proud of being Angolan than I am today, because of that experience. It was the worse experience of my life, so that really affected the pride I have as an Angolan person, but I'm not ashamed of it.

Are there any challenges that come with being mixed race?

I would say that the biggest challenge of being mixed is self-identification, especially if one of the mixes is white.

Why do I say that? Well, it's simple. If you have a half Indian and half Chinese kid, what do you call him? I'm pretty sure you'll tell the kid he's both. So why, when a kid is half black and white, you call him black? Because we put in our heads that white is something pure, something that can be contaminated.

I grew up constantly questioning that, until, one day, I saw a really old video from slavery times where this white man grabs a glass of water and adds a drop of black ink. He stirs the glass and the water becomes black as if the pure, clean water had become contaminated. "Wait a minute. Why is my black blood something dirty?" I thought. The simple answer is: it isn't.

From then on I stopped calling myself black anymore. I would just call myself mixed. Because that's what I am, and the black blood I have in me is not dirty, it's beautiful.

What do you like about being mixed-race?

I love being mixed. I love the colour of my skin; as everyone should. I love the fact that we represent, in a way, love regardless of your background.

I see mixed people as hope for a better world, where we just love each other, and we don't look at the colour of anyone's skin and think someone is ugly because of their ethnicity.

Did you grow up in a diverse area?

I grew up in an area near a neighbourhood that was majority Cape Verdeans, and most of them are from mixed backgrounds.

Have you experienced racism from people of ethnicity with which you identify?

If you read my previous interview - if you didn't, go read - I explained that that wasn't much of an issue to me. But yeah, some white people have been racist towards me, but nothing aggravating.

What about relationships? Do you and your partner speak about all your heritages?

The guys I've been with are more aware of what being mixed means, so I don't really have to go into details. And I refrain from talking about my life story to them.

Have you always identified with both or all your racial background?

Growing up, people would impose my blackness on me. And with that I mean, make me forget that I'm mixed. Sometimes I felt like I was committing a crime for saying that I wasn't black. People would reply to me, "Are you white then?" as if I was 'trying to be white' when I really wasn't. Then I would look at myself, and see that I'm literally different from almost everyone. Even though within the black community you are treated differently for having lighter skin.

It was a journey fully embracing my origins.

Do your friends accept you for all of you?

They better because I don't have time for that.

Has anyone ever said you sound more [insert race]?

I'll insert white as that is the story of my life. But nowadays it's not even 'Oh my God! You don't sound black', it's more like 'Oh my God! You sound kind of posh'. Yes, you can vomit.

Do you feel represented in the media?

There are a lot of light skin celebrities out there, and they are supposed to represent the black community, but from what I see, they don't. They want actual black people representing them, not us.

Has anyone ever asked you anything that you find offensive?

Can I touch your hair? A: No! (some don't even ask)

What are you? A: None of your business, I don't know you.

Where are you really from? (emphasis on really) A: ???

How do you tan? A: The sun burns my skin, just like it does to you.

Attention: I don't say 'mixed-race', instead I say 'mixed' because there's only one race, the human race. There are ethnicities, but no race, as this was made up by white people. Genetically, the difference between a German and an English person is the same as a Nigerian and an English person.

Is there anything else you'd like to mention or share with us?

I will be talking more about my personal experiences on my podcast. Tune in as I'll be releasing my first episode this week:

Henrique has also shared his experience with racism and you can read more on this very platform - click here

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