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Mummy what if they laugh at me because of my skin colour?

mixed race

Mummy what if they laugh at me because of my skin colour? 

During my teenage and early adulthood I lived in Auckland, New Zealand, which we used to call a multicultural melting pot. There were people of all cultures and races, from British, to Caucasian, Maori, Pacific Islanders, Indian, Chinese, Somali, Indonesian and African. I can honestly say I had friends who’s cultural identity came from places far and wide.

mixed race

Growing up, I often felt the odd one out. I had many Maori, Tongan and Samoan friends and not quite as many white/caucasian friends. In fact I ended up marrying a Tongan man and we had a beautiful child together, my daughter Sylvia.

I left my marriage (due to violence) when Sylvia was very young. Then, 5 years ago I returned to the UK. I wanted a fresh start and I brought my half British/ half Tongan baby with me. At the time I moved to the UK, I did not even consider the implications of bringing a half brown child to England.

However, last year at the age of six, my daughter was a victim of racism. Our adult neighbours at the time would make racist comments to my child and call her names whilst she played in the garden. It not only shocked me but broke my heart as I saw how upset my little girl was. Luckily this did not last long as our neighbour moved away (thank goodness). However my daughter did not forget, the damage was done.

I told my daughter she is beautiful, that many girls would love to have her skin tone. I told her that she is British just like everyone else at school, yet she still feels a little different. In fact, while playing with a group of girls on the grass at the back of our home, my daughter came back into the home with tears streaming down her eyes.

Sylvia and the girls had been role playing disney princesses. She wanted to be cinderella but the other girls said she had to be Pocahontas. She wasn’t allowed to be a white disney princess because her skin tone is different. She argued and stood her ground but in the end she left the group and came back into the house very upset.

I wanted to wrap my daughter in my arms and say stay away from those children, don’t play on the grass with them. I always wanted to help her learn to stand up for herself, but I’ve not experienced this before and I didn’t really know what to do.

My daughter played outside again on the grass when she suddenly came home in tears. She was so upset she couldn’t breath properly and was in a state I had never seen before. She had just been outside the gate, yet two boys had chosen to call her names- just for fun and then began to hit her. She had only been outside the gate, yet this awful experience took place and I was heartbroken.

My baby girl was crying so badly that we had to lay her down and get her to breath. It took about 15 minutes to get her breathing back to normal and she told us what had happened. When I asked Sylvia why the boys had hurt her, she said because she has brown skin.

I decided not to let my daughter play out of the garden anymore. It wasn’t exactly fair, she loves to ride her bike on the path around the house as the other children do. In Yorkshire she played with other kids and had no issues, yet on the street we live we do have problems but I need to keep my daughter safe.

After quite a few weeks of staying in the garden Sylvia wanted to go play in the garden of another child- a friend from school. I was reluctant to allow her, however I didn’t think it was fair to say- no you cant play out with other children in case they start to pick on you.

Well, no sooner had she gone, she came back home and again she was in tears. The girls had climbed into a Tree house and when my child tried followed the other children said, “your not allowed in here”, “get down you sloppy dog”. Now I don’t know why they did this to my child but again Sylvia believed it was because she looks different to the rest of the girls.

I decided enough was enough. my daughter won’t be playing out anymore. I will arrange one on one playdates with good friends at school and keep her so busy that she won’t want to go and ride her bike with the other children. It’s not fair but what am I to do?

We booked my daughter into dance school. She tried out Tap dancing and Ballet over the past few weeks. We can’t afford both classes yet so I asked her to choose which one she enjoys the most. Sylvia loves Ballet (it’s £4 a week) so she has now joined the ballet class on Saturdays and she and I were really excited.

Then on Saturday my daughter was all ready for ballet and she said, “but mummy, what if they laugh at me because of my skin colour?“. My heart sank again. How sad is it for my 7 year old daughter to worry about being half brown. I did my best to reassure my child that people won’t be worrying about her colour. I told her people don’t judge you by your skin, they judge you buy your heart and your actions.

I told Sylvia she is beautiful and that lots of girls would love to have her skin tone. I also dyed my own hair brown a few months ago so we would at least have the same hair colour (and it did make a small difference). I’ve always been blonde previously.

So where to from here? I really do not know! We live in a society where racism is not acceptable but this does not mean it does not exist. I’ll teach my daughter to love herself. I’ll teach her that it is okay to be different. I’ll teach her that we are all the same on the inside. I will try to help her embrace who she is. She is British but she is also part Tongan and we cannot ignore this. It is her cultural heritage and something to be proud of. It’s not something to hide your head about in shame.

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This week in New Zealand it is Tongan Language week and many of our friends sent their children to school in traditional Tongan clothing. I’ve been advised by some “here in the uk” not to bother teaching my child anything about the Tongan culture. “She lives in the uk- she doesn’t need to know about Tonga” they say. I don’t agree.  My child is half Tongan and I’ll tell her what I know, teach her little words and help her to grow up knowing she is British but that she also has a beautiful heritage. A heritage to be proud of.

It really would not matter what colour Sylvia’s skin was. It should not matter. I think my child is gorgeous and so do many other people, I simply have to teach her this and help her to grow in confidence about who she is. She is my daughter, my precious child and she is much loved. I want her to learn this and I will do my best to teach her.

Luckily Sylvia attends a wonderful school and has not had any difficulties there in regards to race. She fits in really well. As Sylvia takes part in both school and extra curricular activities I hope her confidence will grow and that she will grow in self-worth knowing that she is who she is, my daughter and no matter what anyone says or does, she is always loved because she is my child!

Angela Milnes x

14 Comments

  1. Your post made me angry and sad at the same time. We’re a long way from MLK’s dream that all that matters is the colour of a man’s character rather than his skin. I’m sorry your daughter is going though this and I hope you find a way to deal with it successfully. (Sorry, I’ve got nothing). Sending hugs.

    1. Thanks Mrs Tubbs. It’s something I never really considered until it happened and it made me angry too at the time. It is hard to know what to do and say to your child however I am keeping her away from those particular kids for now and will keep her busy with real play dates and other activities so she wont need to go out and play! Also she can go bike riding with her dad. Sometimes we have to protect our children fro nasty kids. Angela x

  2. This post made me feel so sad and then so angry. I think my daughter Sofia is about the same age as Sylvia (just started year 3) and is also mixed race (I’m English and my husband is from Ecuador). Your daughter is stunningly beautiful and the idea that anyone is giving her grief for her skin colour is just so insane. My daughter also has dark skin – they call it cinnamon skin in Spanish which I think is such a lovely term. We have been lucky so far that Sofia has not had any racist comments. I didn’t actually think Sofia noticed that she looks a little different from her friends until she met a girl from Uruguay in the park and came running up to me to say hey mum I’ve found a girl who is the same colour as me. I guess all that we can do is tell them how beautiful they are and help them to develop the confidence to face ignorance head on.

    1. Thanks Sarah. I tell Sylvia she is beautiful everyday and I want her to believe it! It doesn’t help when the parents of the children say nasty things like “don’t play with that ##### girl” (I wont write what they cal her but it is racist) and my husband heard them. It just goes to show it’s the parents who are influencing the children. Anyway the good news is my daughter’s school are aware of the situation and any will support us if anything further happens. It’s not nice but like you say- if we teach our children they are beautiful, they will grow in confidence and realise that what people say is not always true. Thanks for commenting Angela xx

  3. I don’t know whether I’m more angry or more sad right now. It’s bad enough when children are racially abusive but for an adult to make comments to a child is just beyond me. Sylvia is beautiful and her skin is a gorgeous colour, but you are right, she shouldn’t be judged on that – she should be judged on what’s on the inside. It’s a real shame more parents aren’t teaching their children this. I hope she learns to ignore the small minded biggots and realise they are the ones with the problem, not her!
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
    Debbie

  4. It’s great that you are so happy with her school and I agree that hopefully this will help her become more confident in who she is but huge well done to her for standing her ground. You must be very proud. #bigfatlinky

  5. How awful for your beautiful little girl…and for you! I’m so sorry you have both had to go through such racism and cruelty. As her mum it must be so heartbreaking thinking she can be made to feel so bad about herself by bigots.

    I’m so scared about my boys being bullied and having comments made about them. They’re both white but my eldest has just been diagnosed with autism (and I have my suspicions about his little brother).

    Kids can be cruel but they learn this behaviour from the adults in their lives and it’s them who are to blame. I hope you and your daughter can rise above the idiots of the world.

    #AnythingGoes

    1. Some people have no kindness. I have a special needs brother and whilst one or two have made fun of him, many people are very understanding and nice to him. Hopefully that will be the case with your autistic children/child. My uncle and cousins have autism and they are all grown men now and whilst they have struggled they have learnt to live with it and do have some good friendships. It can be scary as a mother and difficult when our children are different to the “generally accepted normal child” and we can only go with it and live and learn and sometimes learn form others too. Good luck and i hope you don’t worry too much. Angela x

  6. This is such a heartbreaking post. The worst part is, children aren’t born racist. It must be coming from somewhere. What sort of adult would think it was acceptable to teach this their child to behave like this? It makes my blood boil.

    I’m so sorry that you and your beautiful daughter have had to go through this. I hope that you find some strategies that work for you in dealing with it going forward. But even more I hope that those people who have been putting you both through this have a massive attitude change. It’s not fair that you are always the ones who have to adapt your behaviour when you are the victims. x

    1. I agree… this is totally something children are taught by adults and sadly some have got bad attitudes in today’s world. Well we will keep plodding on and ignore this kind of nonsense but it was important for me to write about it. Angela x

  7. Thanks for sharing this post! I was shaking as I read it. Shaking with disbelief that it’s still happening, shaking with anger that it’s still happening and shaking with disgust that it’s still happening.

    You’re doing the right thing by her-nurturing and supporting her. There is nothing much you can do to control what other people say/do but you can empower your child. No, wait, we can change other people. We have to keep shouting the message out loud – Any Type of Discrimination is unacceptable.

    I am so sorry that your child is hurting. With your love and support, I am sure she will come to understand that it is not her who has a problem but them.

    And please tell her that I look forward to you posting of her first Ballet performance.

    1. Thanks so much agent Spitback! 🙂 Yes we can empower our kids and shout from the roof tops that discrimination is NOT OKAY. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Angela x

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