Struggling with my identity as a brown Scottish person has only been a recent phenomenon to me, or at least a recent realisation. I was raised in a white culture, by my white mum. My dad is from Bangladesh, but has never been present in my life, so I do not know about the South Asian (SA) culture; foods, traditions, fashion, history… I mention all of these factors because this is something I have longed to know about, but every time I reach out, I feel more alienated. The controversial thing is, I used to like being asked “where do you really come from?” because it was the only link I had to my ethnicity.
I never thought about my race until last year. A brown boy walked past me with a Scottish accent and I found it so strange, and then it hit me, that’s me! It sounds so silly, but until that point, I always thought I just merged in. I became more self-aware of my colour and how I looked beside my white family and friends. The odd one out. This is when I started to become disconnected to my Scottish nationality and felt confused. I remember watching a movie based in a remote part of Scotland and only seeing white people and thinking that I don’t belong to this country, this isn’t where I come from.
As I became more aware of my race my confusion grew. I started following SA minority groups on social media to try feel connected to the other side of me, the visible side of me. My first mistake was trying to identify as SA. I couldn’t relate to any of these “relatable posts” or “brown girl posts” because I never grew up in a SA household, so I felt even more isolated. Where do I fit in? I reached out to one group, advising that I felt confused that although I am South Asian, I couldn’t relate to the issues they raised. They took offence to this and thought I was accusing them of excluding me, so as you can imagine I felt even more lost.
Then there was the other side to it. If there’s one thing I have found in exploring my SA identity, it’s that Bangladesh is not as accepted as India and Pakistan. Whenever I have disclosed that I am Bangladeshi, the conversation ends as if I am not worthy to be considered South Asian. This is something I don’t understand, so the cycle of confusion continued. I would be brave and try to reach out to brown girls to find some common ground, something I wished for, but all that was returned was reluctance. The messed up thing is, when a little boy shouted at me “P*ki” on the street, part of me felt recognised as a brown person- at least he saw me as brown. The fact that the only connection I have to my race is racism is not acceptable.
Due to the awareness and growth of recent social movements, I have come across more mixed race Scottish people which is really comforting, but where I feel isolated is that they all have some sort of connection to their other side, may it be a parent or having previously lived in that other country. I’m completely lost and ashamed that I know nothing, but it’s a journey and I know there is someone who will feel the same somewhere. My message is to anyone reading, please be kind to those mixed race people who are trying to search for that missing piece, we don’t all know about the other side of us, but we would like you to show us.
By Shauntelle Islam