Written by Emma Symonds

As Black History Month continues, we want to share with you the next instalment from our series of understanding each other, which was written by a member of staff on how she grew up being raised by interracial parents and found positivity in being herself.

Bright Red Spotty Wellies

“I grew up in a household with my two younger brothers, my Mom and my Dad. We travelled often as my Dad was in the forces, never really staying anywhere for too long. In fact I think we moved every two years until I hit secondary school. We had hordes of pets, and as children we often fell out and pulled pranks on each other. This probably sounds very much like an ordinary childhood but there was one significant difference in my family. I was born to an interracial couple. My mom was born in Bolton, Lancashire and she is British White. My Dad is Jamaican and he was born in Portland, Jamaica and he is Black. Black Caribbean I guess he would tick on those little boxes. So I, as are my siblings, am Mixed Race.

I’m now in my 40’s and I can honestly say I now feel good in my own skin, but I didn’t always feel like that. I didn’t always have the confidence to say I’m Black and challenge the misconceptions that I was Spanish, or Mexican or Indian and even the odd Errrrrm with awkward glances at the floor. I recall being at a Doctors Surgery and the receptionist taking it upon herself to tick those little boxes for me, you know the boxes that state what ethnicity you are. She filled in White and challenged me when I corrected her. Needless to say she was really embarrassed and I’ve never gotten into a doctors appointment so quickly before or since.

As a child my parents, particularly my mom, would soothe me when I was feeling vulnerable, or I had been bullied because I looked different by saying “Emma, You have to remember you are the best of both worlds.”

It didn’t matter that I had crazy, frizzy, unmanageable hair, huge glasses and a face full of freckles. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t cool, or look like all the other children. It didn’t matter because I was me. I was beautiful and special and as I got older I would be able to experience and see the differences and beauty in those around me when others may not. This, my mom knew because she understood more about me, than I did at that age.

There were times when my skin colour seemed to go unnoticed, I was simply the weird curly haired girl who liked to climb trees and dance to Whitney Houston but there were also the times when my skin colour was very noticeable. Those are the times that have moulded me into the person I am now. 

I remember being invited to a birthday party and being so excited. I had my mom sort my mad hair out, I got dressed up and off I went with my gift under my arm. I don’t remember much of that birthday party except being put in the middle of a circle that the other girls had made and having them dance around me singing “Brown girl in the ring.” I remember standing there feeling really uncomfortable and thinking that this wasn’t right. Why am I in the circle? Why have I been put here? I was put there with no thought from that girl’s mother, for no other reason than I was the only Black child in that room. Clearly that experience had an impact because I still think about it to this day and as much as I enjoy a Boney M song, I really do detest that one. 

Now I don’t share that story to gain sympathy or shock value. I share it because I think it was a pivotal moment in my childhood when I realised I was different and if I wanted to control my place in the group dynamic I had to stand up for who I was!

Those moments in my life when I feel that my voice is unheard or undervalued are the moments that I remember what my mom said. I am the best of both world and as I’ve gotten older I have adapted that thinking to “I have a toe in two separate ponds”. Those ponds are there for me to look into and reflect on who I am at times when my confidence is waning or I’m afraid to say something which may offend or antagonise. I can splash about in those ponds, causing little ripples of self-empowerment or I can put in my Bright Red spotty wellies and stomp in them, causing waves of change and equity.

You can come and jump in my puddles too, if you like, or we can sit on the side and wiggles our toes and talk about who we are and how we can make a change for the better.

It’s not always been easy but nothing important is, and as Maya Angelou said “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” You may just need to find your own Bright Red Spotty Wellies and make some waves.” Inclusion is an absolute priority here at Yeovil Hospital; we want to make sure every single member of staff and all our patients feel safe, equal and valued. Remember we are keen to hear your ideas of how we can ensure we get this right every time. Please email us your thoughts on MinoritiesNetwork@ydh.nhs.uk