"



Since sharing my identity issues and story about being raised white as a black woman at the end of 2016, some fairly interesting things have happened to me (nearly all of them good). Although I was scared about addressing an issue that had plagued me for years, and worried about the potential backlash I’d face from family members or strangers, pouring my heart out on the internet turned out to be the best decision I made last year. Here’s why:

    1. I’ve been offered a DNA test and assistance tracing my ancestry/potential other family
      I decided to share my story online because not only was opening up about it extremely cathartic, but because I also knew it was too big to deal with alone and within my immediate community. Things were BEYOND tense with my Mum, conversations were difficult and I didn’t really know where to go with things. In opening up online I was kind of hoping someone else would get in contact with either a similar story (and henceforth, give me some advice and remove the pressure of having to decide the Next Big Step), or, offer some help about how to trace my heritage and find out my genetic make-up. Thankfully that’s exactly what’s happened and I’m *so excited* to see what happens now My Heritage have offered to help out. They’re a company that specialises in DNA tests, genetic mapping and ancestral tracing and they’ve offered me access to all their services after reading my story online. Hopefully now I can get a clearer picture of where it is I come from and potentially, where my other family members might be located. (The phrase “my other family” is still so strange to even type but that’s what this is, I guess). My Heritage want to make a short film about my experiences as I use their services and chart my journey, so the first step is  meeting a videographer in Mexico City to get filmed. I’m feeling excited, nervous, weirded out… all the feels.
    2. I’ve had long overdue discussions with family and friends
      Conversations that should occurred years ago, questions that should have been asked, reasons that should have been provided…I’m grateful that writing about my identity online has created a window for these words to trickle through and I have so much more that needs to be said. Writing about an unsaid, unspoken issue within my family (which was my unexplained blackness), has led to a few difficult exchanges. Hopefully now the people I love, (nearly all of whom are white), can see that I need(ed) some outlet for discussing issues pertaining to race. Especially as I’ve grown up something of racial outsider my whole life. And in turn, I’m starting to understand the difficulties other family members and friends have faced  in addressing what they felt was a highly taboo topic. It’s still odd though that I’ve had 24 years of my appearance as a black person just kind of…glossed over in a family of white people. Like I’ve never, ever been referred to as “black” by either my Mum or Dad’s family, or family friends, or my parents or brother, up until this article came out. It’s really fucking bizarre when this is exactly what I am, but the refusal to acknowledge my appearance within my community, based on a fear of upsetting my parents, is what’s really contributed to me not accepting my own blackness for 24 years. The alternative, the reality, the truth was never mentioned or alluded to, ever.  And I still have some way in finding out how we’ve all lived a lie for so long, or how race and identity issues have never infiltrated our every-day discussions despite occupying so much space in my psyche….but at least the article has been a catalyst for initial discussion.
      raised white when you're black
      Me and my parents

      I just wish my Dad was around to be a part of all this, because I know he would have offered whatever support he could have. The mere issue of us no longer being related, biologically wouldn’t have mattered an inch to him. However, what’s nice, is that any anxiety I had about no longer being part of my Dad’s family once this article came out have been shrugged off completely by relatives on that side of the family. My Mum spent Christmas 2016 with my Dad’s family, just like we all used to and I’ve been reassured time and time again that I’ll always be a Lawton, no matter what I find out in the future.

    3. Lots of people have contacted me with similar/crazier/stranger-than-fiction stories
      In opening up about a taboo topic, I’ve encouraged others to do the same, which is cool. Loads of people have got in contact with similar stories and connecting with all these strangers has further confirmed to me that life is nothing more than a collection of fucking weird, random situations. And, that as humans we are so much more similar than we’d ever stop to realise. Since sharing my story, I’ve been privy to a range of similar family dramas through DMs and messenger that have involved; lost siblings, adoptions, mix-ups and identity crises and more crazy lies. It’s made me realise that identity issues can affect people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, countries. I’ve spoken with white, black and mixed-race people from Israel, Ireland, Holland and beyond. We’re shared the same fears and worries and anxieties despite having grown up thousands of miles apart. Sharing my life online has given me a platform to reach people further out, who I can resonate with. If I hadn’t bared my soul, I would never have had the chance to reach them. I feel privileged to have helped others discuss similar issues and when I return to London I have a few ideas on how to incorporate these influences into another project.
    4. I was trolled…kind of.
      If a millennial shares a personal essay online RE identity issues and doesn’t get trolled…did it even happen? Well actually, no-one’s really gone to the effort of getting in contact with me to abuse me (yay for having lazy trolls), I just read some fucking stupid comments on xonecole, where a version of my blogpost was published. All publicity is good publicity though, lol.

Want to follow along with my journey? Subscribe to my posts and make sure you follow along with my journey for my DNA results soon!

12 Comments

  1. Incredible story. I’m speechless and deeply moved. Thank you for sharing (just read it in The Guardian). Keep talking… writing & sharing. The truth really can set you free. Take care H

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s very similar to mine, except I can’t take that brave step into contacting my birth parent for fear of messing up the complex web woven around me.

    I feel so alien from both of my identities, both reject me, and I’m not really sure who I am – sometimes I feel it’s the worst of all worlds.

    I wish you well on your journey, and hope it brings you peace and fulfillment.

  3. Don’t feel bad about any of this. I’m 1st generation Irish-American, Irish born parents, lived in Ireland 5 years. The Irish (and Brits) are very tight-lipped people any anything to do with sex gets hid away in a closet and near impossibe to talk about.

    Enjoy your life and new paths and adventures that are opening up to you, take advantage of all opportunities. Despite this one ‘forbidden topic’ it seemed your parents who raised you loved you and now matter which twists and turns are to come, that foundation to your life will always be there. Your initial story a very Irish one, your future story yours to make.

    Bfk

  4. Hey Georgina!

    Your story intrigued me to the point I ended up here! I urge you to keep learning, keep asking and keep exploring. I admire your bravery and tenacity to find out the truth!

    Funny enough I’ve just found out my “white” portion of my heritage was Irish from a DNA test and had no idea.

    I wish you luck with your search with the company, you should most definitely do it!

    Good Luck!
    Lerease

  5. Alan Brighty Reply

    A great article in The Guardian, Georgina. I salute your courage in writing it. It can’t have been easy.
    Regards
    Alan

  6. Alistair Johnson Reply

    Hi Georgina

    I just read your article in the Guardian. It was amazing and I am so pleased that you are sitting off on your journey from such a loved and accepted beginning. I am mixed race from a different generation. My Dad was Black Jamaican in the RAF during the war and my Mum was white English. I grew up mainly with my Mum in a world of White priviledge – boarding school etc and had to work quite hard to make connections with my Black peers. I was lucky that my Dad went back to Jamaica and so I was able to spend time with him and ‘learn the language’ etc so that I was less ‘adrift’ when approaching Black English culture. I know this can be more difficult for women and a friend of mine Nimmy March, the actor had a tougher time of it.

    My wife is English with Jamaican parents and we live in Vancouver and have adopted 3 mixed race children. We are involved with a local group Harambee which runs annual camps for families with children of African descent. We are one of only two families with Black parents.

    I did anthropology at UCL and have been questioning race and issues around it all my life. I have produced a 3 minute film Polar Reversal that addresses the issue of identity in the context of passing. This is a demonstrator for a number of tv/film projects which use the same reversal.

    I am pasting below the Youtube link and the lovely letter I was sent by Jane Elliott when I sent her Polar Reversal.

    I wish you all the best in your journey.

    Best regards and hugs,

    Alistair

    The film is on Youtube and this is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaSYSdWMRMg

    In 2011 I sent PR to Jane Elliott who has been running her Blue Eyed, Brown Eyed exercises for 48 years. I mentioned that someone had said it was ‘too subtle’. This was her extremely generous and encouraging reply, which she has kindly allowed me to use as an endorsement:

    Dear Alistair,

    Subtle, it’s not, but thought-provoking, it is! I suspect that the reason people protest the darkness of the second child is our determination not to see dark skin in a positive light! If you’d only made her a little dark with some curly hair, your white audiences might be able to accept her blackness as ever being positive. Some of the citizens of this country are having a terrible time accepting President Obama’s skin color. Imagine their anger if his skin were any darker! I also suspect that they have trouble imagining a scenario in which someone would want NOT to be WHITE! Unthinkable! Man, this is going to make peoples’ head spin, as they try to reverse the images and their concepts of race and its implications!

    Thank you for doing this! After people look at this, the Eye-Color exercise is going to seem tame! Not non-threatening, mind you, but tame.

    Jane Elliott

  7. Dear Georginia,
    your story is so similar to my own in many ways; so much so that I’ve not yet read the whole of the above piece because I felt so emotional. It’s easy to feel very much alone and isolated and it’s always a profound experience to read that one is not alone. My story starts in the 1950s and I have only written about it once in detail here: http://www.nagara.co.uk/Blood%20in%20the%20river.htm. Though I’ve tried to get my early years into perspective, later experiences (including being attacked and threatened and nearly killed) are too raw to be able to write about effectively.

    Anyway, keep up the great work and let me know if you decide to read my piece. If the link doesn’t work from here, try pasting it.

    Best wishes,

    Nick

  8. What a brave thing you have done. And your dad’s passing was the catalyst for your life opening up. He is your angel. And all I see is his abundant generosity, and your family’s abundant generosity to love you no matter what. It’s really beautiful. And that’s all after first being offended. I found the beauty. Here’s to you finding the magnificence of it all.

  9. Interested post, blog…the worst feeling is not knowing your identity and most African American don’t know they identity. We was just told we was sent here on a ship end of storry into you actually find out its more to the story. Well I just hope you embrace your African like feature and still be able to except your culture, most people would had went crazy but you found a way to keep living and enjoy life.

Write A Comment

Subscribe to follow my journey and get my musings on identity and travel
Get my race ramblings in your inbox, sporadically.
I won't spam you (because I don't write that often anyway).
""