|>>|| No. 16442
The transracialist gives his side.
>I have never made any secret of the fact that I was born to Irish parents, and that my parents and grandparents are white. But my identity is different. It’s there for all to see in Chilling Out, a documentary I took part in back in 1990. As I said then: “When I’m alone in my bedroom looking in the mirror, thinking about stuff I’ve written down, thinking about my past … I think I’m a black man.”
>I am the eldest of three brothers, but during early childhood, when there were only two of us, to neighbours on our west London estate, we looked as if we weren’t our parents’ children. There was an old saying: “Mother’s baby, father’s maybe” – only the mother knows. When I was born, my dad wasn’t sure if I was his son, and this was heartbreaking for my mum, to say the least. Two years later another little boy came along with the same physical characteristics, which must have been another bombshell.
>Both of us had a sense of this not being our home, or our parents. People would arrive on the doorstep to gawp at us. In primary school, when I was seven or eight, people would ask me where I came from and would conclude that I must be adopted. So, at an age where I didn’t know what race or identity was, I became the subject of whispering and conversation. My best friend was black, and he gave me an afro comb because my mum couldn’t manage my hair.
>After my parents divorced when I was 12, we moved into a flat with a Rastafarian couple living upstairs, and the woman would take me up to their flat and I would feel at home. There was a salon where I got my hair canerowed. It was like being adopted or fostered by people who “got” you, or knew what you needed. It was at about that time that I heard the word “throwback”. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about. But in my mind there is no doubt that I have some African ancestry.
>In our early teens, both my brother and I developed nervous tics as a result of our experiences, so somebody suggested we did out-of-school activities to build up our confidence. My brother got into sport and I started doing youth theatre, where there was a black youth leader who would spend time with me. When rap and hip-hop hit the UK I got really intoxicated by it, and began to develop a sense of ownership of who I was through music and other aspects of black cultural expression. There was a local all-black body-popping crew, and at 18 I asked if I could join it. I strolled up and showed them my “robot”. (They later said they didn’t know if I was simple or just really confident, because nobody just asked to join a crew like that). The leader of the crew was of mixed parentage, and he reflected me back to myself.
>By 1995 I was living in Manchester, and got heavily involved in African-centred studies. This had a major impact on what I was bringing through as a mixed-heritage actor. As my interests developed, I began working as an assistant director around the country. I had been doing so for many years when this opportunity came up to apply for the two-year artistic development leadership programme bursary through Talawa Theatre Company, and I went for it. It isn’t about training to be a director but about developing leadership skills. Then, suddenly, a year into it, all these accusations start flying around about my white background – something I’ve never hidden.
His mum's shagged a black man.