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Mixed Race, Passing Place

Invisible man

Among the BAME community I can say that I have lived something of a blessed existence. I suffer less than my peers across the board and there is one simple reason. I am mixed race, Colombian-British and as such, I can pass for White.

I have liInvisible manved in the UK my entire life, my accent a crystal-clear construction drilled into me by my mother. I look pale in the winter months, going bronze in the sunnier seasons. When I was younger, I was often asked if I had a “touch of the Mediterranean” about me, but never more than that.

People who met me without my Mother or her family as a reference were surprised when I described memories of arepas y mantequilla, of the smell of thick, slightly bitter hot chocolate in the mornings, of bocadillo veleno and arequipe, of parties awash in aguardiente and the sounds of artists like Joe Arroyo y la Verdad. My life is characterised by these elements of my mother’s culture, like stones standing defiant in the stream of the culture that surrounds me.


It wasn’t until I got out into the big bad world that I started to properly clash with colleagues at jobs and challenging their anti-immigrant rhetoric. When I called them out, I outed myself as one of those “others” they were so quick to judge and belittle. They backed down.

“But your family actually integrated.”

“Of course, we don’t mean you…”

Yet their retractions never went as far as the rest of my family.


To pass in the UK is to live in an endless identity crisis. You are the domesticated savage, your culture sufficiently buried under the veneer of British cultural cues and your appearance sufficiently homogenous that you don’t pose an obvious threat. That is, until you turn, showing you are not who they thought you were. With that uncomfortable truth comes judgement, sometimes guilt, sometimes feelings of betrayal.

You are no longer White. You never were.

So you try to fit in with others “like you”, listening to their stories of abuse, of a torrent of micro-aggressions, of all those things that you witnessed, but never experienced unless you broke cover. You feel guilt for your privilege. You feel alienated.

You are convinced you’re not really BAME either, but you will always step forward to defend those who identify as such.

You prepare yourself for a life of explaining a racial identity you struggle to understand yourself.

It gets better as you spend time with people who understand and are accepting of you as you are, wherever you are on your journey.

It does get better.

(CC0 Image from Pixabay)

(CC0 Image from Pixabay)

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