We need a new language to talk about Métis identities | Letters


As someone raised in England by parents of Iraqi and Scottish descent, I found myself completely in agreement with Laila Woozeer (As a “mixed” person, the language to describe me is not suitable, August 30 ). I get the “Wow, what a mix!” comments too, like I was some kind of exotic experience. I have often been confronted with reductive choices in the diversity sections of official forms, to the point of contenting myself with choosing “mixed other”. But there is rarely an opportunity to specify what the “other” is, and the chance to redefine this space is lost.

While the mainstream representation of ethnically diverse families is thankfully broadening, the unique experience resulting from the meshing of cultures is still underrepresented, and we lack adequate language to label ourselves. We are of course more than the sum of our identities, but language is an essential piece of the puzzle as it provides greater visibility and hopefully better understanding. Oversimplification benefits no one.
Jenanne Fletcher

I am a person who can be described as having a “mixed” heritage or ethnicity. Since childhood (I am now 48), I have been very interested in the language associated with identity. One issue that has continually troubled me has been the normative assumptions implicit in the language about race and ethnicity. Terms such as “mestizo” or “biracial” imply the existence of “pure” races. Terms such as “non-white” or “people of color” suggest that the norm is white and everything else is exceptional or otherwise.

Over the past three decades, there has been an exponential growth in the words available to describe race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, and even generation. I could choose to describe myself as a biracial, cis male, heterosexual Gen Xer. But I find each of these terms reductive and not particularly helpful in conveying anything about myself. Knowing that I am a Guardian reader provides a more useful indicator of the kind of person I am.
george harrison
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

As a half-Chinese, half-white English teenager, Laila Woozeer’s piece resonated strongly with me. A question I have often been asked is where my grandparents live. The answer is Sheffield, but most white people seem surprised by that answer.

There’s a lot of frustration in feeling stuck between two cultures and feeling like the official forms never accurately describe your race (most forms imply that “Asian” is South Asian, never East Asian). East, so “white and Asian” suggests that I am half South Asian). You are an ethnic minority, but you are also the “default” (white), so you feel alienated from both sides. You end up trying to fit into a culture, especially if you grow up in a predominantly white city and believe that the only “acceptable” identity is to be white.
David Douglas James Chan
Belper, Derbyshire

My daughter is half-white British, half-Japanese. She happily labels herself with the Japanese term hafu, which is used in Japan to describe people of mixed race (a rapidly growing demographic there). I myself am part British, part French, if that matters. Perhaps we should try to see our children for their potential born of diversity, rather than prisoners of the legacy of their ancestors.
Richard Milner
Burford, Oxfordshire

Do you have an opinion on anything you read in the Guardian today? Please E-mail us your letter and it will be considered for publication.


Comments are closed.