Sophia Purdy Moore, 20, Student (Bristol, UK)
My mixed heritage has afforded me purchase in two incredibly different worlds. Indeed, on some afternoons you can find me sipping Earl Grey with the landed gentry of the English countryside, uttering liberal platitudes regarding the latest distant ‘migration crisis’. Other times, I will be found getting my hair braided at an inner city Afro-Caribbean salon, swapping ital recipes while berating British imperialism. I regard this phenomenon as both a privilege and a burden, as it bears an often uncomfortably intimate understanding of the insidious, nuanced structural forms of privilege and prejudice at play in modern Britain’s multicultural society.
As a young woman of colour in a predominantly white, middle-class home, friendship group and university, I am habitually typecast as the ‘authentic voice of the black experience’. In such cases, I am the only brown face in the room. With this in mind, I am regularly recruited as an ‘indigenous interpreter’ for white audiences, be this by my classmates and tutors, representative forums, or my friends and family.
In such situations, I find myself thrust once more into a crisis of intellectual identity. It goes without saying that I relish the opportunity to represent minority voices, and to encourage the inclusion of a more diverse range of perspectives. My greatest struggle lies in portraying those I seek to represent in a way that communicates the gravity of their oppression, without undermining their influence and dignity. For while I am equipped to offer a certain degree of enlightenment, having experienced the more understated variety of racism practiced by the upper classes from an early age; religiously read every word written by bell hooks; and immersed myself in the intellectual and artistic endeavours of black folk, I possess limited unmediated knowledge of the ‘black experience’.
This highlights my somewhat unique position as an isolated insider. While I am detached from the black community, I am licensed to observe from the sidelines, imparting an intimate understanding of the black experience. I also remain an outsider in the white dominated spaces I take up, yet am privy to the innermost workings of the upper echelons of society.
In my silence, I hear missed opportunities to highlight, disrupt, and discredit the oppression of those I stand for. When I speak up, I am ever-fearful of providing a restricted vignette of that which I am supposed to know best. This leaves me wondering where my loyalties and identification lie.