Polls, Pigment and Pitas

Black History Month belongs to every Other. The open dialogue shared alongside discussions of the struggles of Black peoples allows for the recognition of both past and present problems that we of the Black/ Mixed/Other/not-a-white-person identities have faced and continue to face. However, as a member of the incredibly vague ‘Other’ category, I can’t help but feel like I am but a passing mention in brackets in this month’s narrative.

I lost who I was before I even figured out who I am, because I was trying so hard to be white.

Of course, the melanin intolerant would say we all belong under this label of Black in an uncharacteristic attempt at establishing equality, but I fear it’s deeper than that, fam. For someone that has to fill in their own ethnicity when faced with a poll, job application or a buzzfeed potato quiz, I find it more and more difficult to pinpoint exactly where I lie in the conversation, which has led me to many a crisis of identity growing up brown.

Now, growing up is difficult in general; we’re all trying to figure out who we are in our formative years. But for a craft brownie that sees no other faces like theirs around them, it can be even more daunting. Questions like “why don’t I look like the other kids in my class?” and “why is even the bread of my packed lunch sandwich different?” (cheers, mum, those pita sarnies were peng) plagued those first school years of mine in a white working-class village.

I found myself applying disgusting amounts of hair gel to my hair in an effort to mute my curls, just so that my hair slightly resembled Billy’s, and asking mumzy to hit me up with a jam sandwich just to avoid those awkward, unanswerable questions about the intricacies of a flatbread.

I lost who I was before I even figured out who I am, because I was trying so hard to be white.

As a kid, you’re too busy worrying about fitting in instead of taking pride in standing out because there’s always a bully, and you’re always the odd one out – again, because Billy Bellend doesn’t see any Ahmad’s or Amare’s doing cool shit on the TV. That’s where I think the problem stems from. But I don’t have any strings to pull in the industry to get our beautiful, ambiguous mugs on the screen, so I just laugh Billy off for now, – one day he’ll learn how to google.

As we seem to be seeing more and more fellow Others in the spotlight that we so foolishly fixate on, idolising and emulating them, to me, would be a waste of time. Just take comfort in the fact that they look like you and that they’re killing it, and that you can kill it too.

Become your own icon. Own you. Wear those curls like a crown, king. And for the queens out there, you’re hair will always be better than Becky’s.

Ahmad Beitelmal