Third year journalism student Donna Sibanda has just penned the opinion column below, for part of her final year assessment. Makes you think – which is exactly what a column is supposed to do.
How do you categorise someone who is not,100% white nor 100% black, without offending that person? This is the debate that I walked into the other day, when a woman pointed at me and told her son: "That is a ‘half caste’ girl." Why she did that I will never know, but it left me feeling hurt that the phrase is still being used.
Why so hurt? The answer is in the meaning of the words. If you research the definition of half caste, it says ‘a person of mixed racial descent.’ Fair enough, but read the synonyms and it tells you: amalgam, bastard, combination, composite, compound, cross, crossbreed, half-blood, half-breed, mongrel … to name just a few.
Caste was first used in India in the sixteenth century to describe the Hindu system of hierarchy. The term half-caste indicates how pure you are racially and echoes the days of colonial slavery when words such as mulatto, quadroon and octoroon were commonplace in sales ledgers and even in post-emancipation days in the old United States census.
A poet from Guyana makes some brilliant points in his poem ‘Half caste’: "Excuse me standing on one leg I’m half-caste. Explain yuself wha yu mean when yu say half-caste. yu mean when Picasso mix red an green is a half-caste canvas.
He goes on to say, "explain yuself wha yu mean when yu say half-caste yu mean Tchaikovsky sit down at dah piano n mix a black key wid a white key is a half-caste symphony?"
Ok I understand that my caramel toned skin signifies that I am a part of more than one race, but does that mean that I am actually belonging to none?
So what should I be labelled as? My mother is white and my father is black. That means that I am a part of the two most dominant races in society. Could I technically call myself a ‘hybrid?’ Or would people find that a little big headed?
I consider myself a very lucky human. I get to eat a traditional British Sunday roast, and other days I can indulge in Caribbean, chicken, rice and peas. I have been brought up listening to the warm sounds of reggae music by my father, and thanks to my mother I know all the rock and roll artists. I have both white and black cousins, but best of all I have two places that I can call home. So please call me MIXED RACE.
Did you know that mixed-race people account for about 1.4 per cent of Britain’s population? MINE is the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country and yet ‘mixed race’ was included in the UK census for the first time only in 2001.