Growing up, I was always labelled ‘half-caste’. These days that’s seen as offensive, with supposed connotations of impurity along the lines of a muggle-blood from Harry Potter. After that, ‘mixed-race’ became the in-term, this too suggests that one doesn’t belong to a race but is a mixture of multiple.
‘Coloured’ was the all-encompassing word for non-whites, which once it became somehow offensive, was rebranded as ‘person of colour’. The implication here is that white folks are literally as white as a sheet of paper and hold no colour, which of course is nonsense. But these labels aren’t intended to be accurate; they’re designed to classify people. Now, ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’ (BAME) seems to be the accepted term for labelling non-white persons.
My Caribbean relatives have additional terms; they would refer to me as ‘yellow-skin’, or occasionally ‘light-skin’ – which is usually reserved for a black person who is lighter than average, rather than for a person of more than one ethnicity.
Personally, I’ve always preferred half-caste, perhaps because it’s what I am most familiar with, but also I think it’s the most accurate. Ethnically, I’m half White English and half Black Caribbean. Mixed-race never sat right with me; it implies not belonging to any and being of more than two. I’m also not really ‘coloured’ or a ‘person of colour’, at least no more than anyone else is. But these things are out of my control, other people – most often white liberals – decide what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate to call me, usually by getting offended on my behalf.
The problem with modern terms such as BAME is that they lump so many ethnicities into one homogenous group. What do Chinese, Indian/Pakistani, African and Caribbean people have in common, other than being non-white? And that’s the crux of the matter. These identifications are a way of highlighting who is and who isn’t white. There’s inherent racism involved.
Sometimes people are unsure and call me ‘black’, seeing it as a safe option. However, this is the laziest and possibly most insulting of them all, because it completely disregards half of my family, half of my heritage, half of my culture. And again, it comes from a classification of being non-white.
My thinking is in-line with that of the great Dr Martin Luther King Jr that we’ll hopefully get to a point where we no longer see colour; where it’s no longer a dividing factor. I appreciate there are times when it’s necessary to know; for example, there are health implications, certain genetic illnesses are more prevalent among particular ethnicities. But on the whole, it’s not a useful categorisation in our everyday lives. The more the mainstream media and hard-left activists group choose to focus on it, the more of an issue it becomes.
If we genuinely want Britain to be a multicultural society – and I’m not arguing for or against that in this article – we need to focus less on the labels we give people and start seeing everyone as British. We need to share our history and our heritage. We should be encouraging everyone in these lands to speak our language and to celebrate our culture. Boxing people up into meaningless sub-labels doesn’t help with that. The only one that matters is ‘British’.