“I feel like in our society, if you want to be cultured you have to get on with it by yourself, and find a way

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While you were growing up who did you see in the media that looked like you?
I didn’t grow up in the UK, I actually grew up in France. At the time, I don’t actually recall seeing many people in the media who looked like me and if I did they didn’t particularly resemble me aside from having darker than average skin (white skin); in other words I didn’t see my young self in them, I just saw characters who were not white and that automatically gave me a point of similarity with them. Sometimes I’d see some black characters but with distinctively altered Caucasian features; they had straight hair, not kinky hair like me. They had thin noses, not wide ones like me. For this reason I’d say I was always very surprised and delighted to see anyone who wasn’t white on TV or in the media in general, whether that be in cartoons or movies. Undeniably though, this didn’t happen very often.

Having said this, I wouldn’t say that at the time this was an issue that I particularly deemed important or offensive, I just accepted it as the norm. Unlike many minorities or coloured people I’ve spoken to, I can confidently say that never in my life have I wished to be white or any other race. I think that’s largely due to the fact that from a young age, I was taught about my African culture so I accepted myself and my family for what we were: black. I had a lot of white friends, as well as Arab friends. I was never, to the best of my knowledge, discriminated against or made fun of for my race. But my parents were, and they did not hesitate to tell my sister and I about their experiences, highlighting that despite the fact that we were blessed to be in such an accepting and welcoming society, we were nonetheless the minority and had to work twice as hard to get to where the white people were.

In school who did you learn about that looked like you or had similar experiences to you? 
In school, both in France and in the UK I do not ever recall being taught any history about me or my people, or any issues that really touched us. But once again; I accepted this as the norm because for one I did not know any different, but also because I assumed that being in a largely white society, I just had to comply. Any history concerning me or my culture was taught to me by my parents, or by my own research, and this started around the age of 8. In France, I’d say the curriculum is more balanced despite the fact that I didn’t learn a lot about Africa, so I’d say although it was predominantly White history, it wasn’t really noticeable because we learnt about other cultures as well. I’d go as far as to say that the first (and only time) I was remotely taught about my ancestors in a school environment was when we learnt about the KKK in history… in year 10. I won’t lie to you, it was so uncomfortable seeing all the white people cringing every time we came over the N word, as if it was an issue that just needed to be ignored. When discussing our curriculum with elder members of society they’re often very shocked to hear that contrary to popular belief it is not in fact very broad in its knowledge and richness.  It wasn’t until I looked in some African textbooks and saw pictures of black girls just like me that I realised that there was a real underlying issue that needed to be addressed.
Why do you think diversity and representation is important? 
In my opinion one of the main reasons why representation and diversity is important in our society is not directly because of us, it’s more about how others view us and our struggle. Unfortunately, many white people with whom I’ve spoken to, refuse to accept the fact that to this day, in our society, black people and other minorities are still not represented very well in the media. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way! But I think because they’re so used to seeing and being in a largely white society, they can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other end of the spectrum, and weirdly enough that’s both for white people but also for some minorities. I don’t blame them though, I guess that’s how society conditions us. I even find that often if we dare to mention such subjects publicly, we’re ridiculed and made to believe that we’re exaggerating our situation and I feel like for this reason many youths in minority groups just go along with it and accept it as their fate.Another reason why I think representation is important is because it promotes tolerance, acceptance and celebrates the heritage of a wide range of people. I would not only love to see more of my history being taught in the school curriculum, but also more of my Asian friends’ history too, for example! I feel like in our society, if you want to be cultured you have to get on with it by yourself, and find a way. If I’m blessed enough to have children one day, I will not hesitate to teach them about our history but I’d love to be supported by the school curriculum too. And I’d love for them to come home and teach me about the history of South Indonesia! Why not? Finally, I’d say diversity and representation is important in order to crush the ridiculous stereotypes that plague our society.

Representation is important so my little nieces and nephews and cousins can see themselves in characters such as Princess Tiana, and don’t have to feel excluded during such a crucial time in their childhood. Unfortunately, it’s deeply rooted issues like this that breed future racial tensions between ethnicity groups. We need to do better as a society.

Did you relate to this? Do you have any questions? If so, write them in the comment section below- we would love to hear from you:)

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Bless x

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