Growing up in a predominantly white, middle class town in the north of England, I never really spent much time – aside from my own childhood insecurities – thinking about how it must feel to be ‘other’. That changed nine years ago when my mixed race son was born.
In the early months and years, I would sometimes get asked whose he was, be it literally or through looks from strangers. It didn’t bother me much; I could take it because he was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen and I was just so proud that I had co-produced him.
My position on this changed as he got older, though. The question of colour stopped being cute when I observed how much it meant to him. It became clear that he felt different at events with my side of the family; he would ask me if he would be the only mixed race child there if we were getting ready to visit friends.
This morning, we did something that neither of us do very often: we sat down to watch the rugby. I had been watching the commentary ahead of the game before he came into the room and so he asked me what was going on.
‘England are playing South Africa – it’s the World Cup final,’ I explained.
Obviously he already knew that; he knows so much more than I do at the moment, it’s a wonder why he bothers asking any questions.
What he didn’t know, however, was that if South Africa won, Siya Kolisi would be the first black South African captain to ever lift the World Cup.
My brother was with us and altogether more engaged in the game.
‘I want South Africa to win,’ Jackson whispered.
His connection, it seemed, was stronger in supporting the outstanding achievement of black man from another nation than one that could be achieved another time by a team from a country that I – perhaps more than he – see as his.
Does this child – who has both English and Jamaican grandparents, wears a Paris Saint-Germain shirt and idolises footballers from all over the world – actually care more about where he’s from or how much he feels he fits into that society?
My son teaches me to think more deeply every day – to truly consider what it is not to be a statistic, stereotype or demographic, but what it is to be human and ‘other’ in a society that often prefers to act as if we’re all supposed to be the same.