I’m mixed race (White and Black Caribbean) and I was born in Lewisham, where I’m currently studying at Goldsmiths. My mum’s family, who were Jamaican, grew up in Stroud, and that’s where I grew up as well. My experience of growing up as an ethnic minority in Stroud hasn’t been that bad overall, but there have been a couple of weird moments.
I remember that whenever my secondary school needed to take photos to use on their website and brochures, me and the other ethnic minority kids always had the day off to pose in science labs and on rugby pitches to show off the school’s apparent diversity. One time when I used to attend Cubs (Scouts for 8 to 10 year olds) a kid asked me whether I had mud on my face, despite the fact that we hadn’t gone outside yet. At the time, neither of those events had any negative impact on my mental wellbeing, but they definitely reinforced a sense of otherness, particularly from a visual standpoint.
Something that was definitely a struggle growing up was finding the right hairdresser, as it took a long time to find someone who could properly work with Afro-Caribbean textures! I’ve not personally experienced any examples of overt racism, but my older cousin was once stopped and searched by the police whilst he was walking across the countryside to a friend’s sleepover aged 16, for the sole reason that he was looking ‘out of place’ in a rural area.
Living in Lewisham is definitely a different experience for me, as I’m within walking distance of the nearest West Indian takeaway instead of a bus ride away! Walking around the streets of New Cross I definitely feel like less of a minority, even though people can probably tell that I’m a Goldsmiths student. I think the main difference between minorities in urban and rural areas is the sense of community. In a rural area, it’s certainly more tight-knit in that everyone knows everyone and is probably related to you, but in urban areas I feel that the community is larger and has more subdivisions.
Whenever I’m back home, I always enjoy a good walk around the countryside because it means I can get away for a while from all the race-related craziness of the outside world and social media.