What is normal anyway?
I grew up in the multicultural East London suburbs, attending a school that was as diverse as you’re likely to find.
Many of my classmates were first generation British or had started life in another part of the world.
And the funny thing was, as a young white boy I didn’t think anything of it. It was my normal.
I was part of a friendship group whose heritage spanned continents and whose parents welcomed me with open arms into their homes, cooking incredible food that I hadn’t tasted before, whilst we hung out playing computer games and listening to music.
And oddly enough it was through music, when I reached higher education, that it dawned on me quite how different my normal had been.
One particularly sheltered chap consistently referred to me as ‘black’ due to my preference at the time to rap music over guitar bands. The humour for him in that nickname wore off pretty quick, but it’s stuck with me nonetheless. And this is just one realisation of my upbringing being a little different during my early university experience.
Many of my new hallmates were from rural or small town England, and although on the whole they were well-meaning people I was struck by their general ignorance at the frequent use of outdated terms such as ‘coloured’ or ‘half-caste’. Sadly there is still a lot of dismantling of this kind to work on.
It became clear to me that my normal was a privilege, and I felt extremely proud (still do) for having had the good fortune to grow up immersed in a rich mix of cultures, which no doubt grounded me and gifted me with a deep-seated worldliness and confidence to build bonds and relationships with people from all backgrounds.
The reality is this.
Ethnic minorities tend to settle in cities where there are more job opportunities and tighter communities, and those who grow up outside of these hubs become comfortable within their own cultural bubbles, hence the aforementioned lazy language. I’ve seen this work both ways btw!
But with mixed-heritage children being the fastest growing demographic in the UK, the formative years of future generations will be increasingly spent learning within multicultural environments.
And who knows, as this becomes the normal for more young people just maybe the world may become a more united, understanding and better place.
Now that would be a wonderful thing to normalise.
Written by Jon Jacobs — Cofounder CandidateX