When I was 19, I went to Thailand for the first time after an absence of over a decade from my mother’s home country. As a mixed race lady (half thai, half scottish) I thought it would reaffirm my identity, and I would feel integrated with people that looked like me & shared my love of rice. My mum died when I was seven, and when she died, the thai part of me died too. I stopped speaking my mother tongue, I became completely westernised, and I lost sight of my asian routes. So when I went to Thailand, I thought that part of me, even if it was just a little bit, would grow again. Instead, I arrived and felt completely alienated. I was neither asian enough to be a native, yet not white enough to look like a tourist. I was in limbo. A seemingly non-asian white blog thing floating around feeling completely disconnected from this experience that’s meant to be positive and life changing. Linguistically, culturally, emotionally – I did not connect. I came back from a few weeks in the sun, and told myself I would never go back, resuming my life in the dark of my mother’s heritage.
When I see theatre, film or art that questions and reaffirms race and identity in our melting pot of a society, I can’t help but feel separate from this debate. Manchester is a brilliant hybrid of many cultures and colours, one of the many reasons why I’ve lived here for many years. Saying this, I don’t have a thai community that I feel close to (or I am even aware of in Manchester) so feel like I cannot embrace the richness of my genes, the way that a Caribbean community in Hulme, or Pakistani community in Rusholme can and do. I am often faced with intense jealousy for someone who can route themselves in the rich culture of their mother and their mother’s mother, emulating an identity that can only be passed down through nurture, and not by observing from an outside eye. I’m not sure if I feel this empathy because the thai community is rarely seen in the media, and especially not in the arts. Any exposure of thai women, come from uncomfortable documentaries about arranged marriages, sex workers, thai brides, yellow fever. Women who marry white men for money. My only connection to my heritage are people who treat this community of women like a joke or a victim.
I continually get frustrated by a spectrum of reactions about my gene pool, ranging from where are you from? england. no where are you frooommmm, you got a little, something in you to you don’t look asian at all, that’s strange. you look nothing like your mum.
Are there any other mixed race people out there that feel the same? As I have no reference from my mother, or from my dad who also passed away when I was young, I seem to be fumbling around, occasionally in an identity crisis, but mostly hiding away from any awareness of where I am from and what culture I associate my skin colour with. Please discuss.