Too Black or not Black Enough.

The story below is written by Hollie Green ©, and was created after a series of talks with a Youth Group in Surrey and people in the local community who, like Hollie, are multi-racial. Hollie talked to a number of people, from teenagers to people aged from 20 – 40+, and found that across many generations, hair pulling, name calling, physical beatings were all common for multi-racial children and yound people attending school in England.

This is a story of Olivier, a multiracial teenage girl aged 15, living in a agricultural county, in a small town in the UK.  Olivier was raised by her Caucasian family, who lived in poverty. They did not acknowledge Olivier’s background and ethnicity, instead Olivier was raised in a white British environment, with no acknowledgement of her black heritage. Olivier did not know how to look after her hair and any product Olivier desired for her hair was too expensive. Olivier begged her family for her hair to be braided to which her older half brother would respond “You are such a chav! Only chavy people have their hair  braided and listen to R&B”

An average day for Olivier was straightening her luscious large loose curls every morning. She despised them. All her life Olivier wanted to ‘look like everyone else’. Olivier once attended school with her natural hair… “Don’t you think that’s a bit of an extreme hair style Olivier!?”, her tutor raised his voice above the hustle and bustle of what was a Thursday morning start in school. “This is my natural hair”, Olivier responded looking dead into the bulbous middle-aged man’s wrinkled eyes. Everyone was staring at her, he made sure of that. The day before this Olivier was teased for her ‘dead hair’ in class where she had straightened it every day. Olivier could never win. Olivier was never accepted.

There was one other multi-racial person in Olivier’s class. This was one of the first people Olivier had ever met that resembled anything of her brown skin, full lips and curly hair, except his braided or cut short. His name was Jason. What Olivier didn’t know is that Jason too had been a victim of white washing. For Olivier to even turn up to school with natural hair was an embarrassment. The teacher had placed Jason and Olivier together. Olivier felt a sense of excitement. An opportunity to meet someone like her. Maybe she could eventually find out where to get her hair braided. Jason had no interest of telling her who did his hair. “It was a family-friend, you’d have to know her. She only does black people hair any way” Olivier ‘ was not black enough’. Jason asked to be moved to sit else where. Olivier felt humiliated and belittled. For the rest of the term Jason and his Caucasian friends would throw rubbers in her hair and other stationery to get it stuck. It was a game, she was but an object for their entertainment.

Olivier left school that week. What self-esteem Olivier had left, no longer existed. Humiliated daily and outcast from all parts of society. On that last day of school Olivier walked out of the school gates and was approached by a young man…

Would it be different for Olivier’s if her family reached out to her black family?

What if Jason gave contact details to Olivier of his cousin?

What do you think happened as a result of Olivier leaving school? Did she obtain her GCSEs?

Is Jason as confused as Oliver about where he belongs in the community?

What could’ve happened differently?

How many opportunities were there to help Olivier?

How could you have helped Olivier?