Let’s talk about ethnicity

Ethnicity is something I have been interested in for a very long time, especially since I come from a mixed race background, my paternal grandfather is Sri Lankan and moved over to England during his 20s. I have grown up in a relatively “English” household but have always felt that having Sri Lankan heritage is a huge part of my identity, even if it only makes up 25% of me. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country filled with a rich culture that I was lucky enough to travel to with my family in 2016, why wouldn’t I want to celebrate that part of me?

I think when everyone is growing up they wonder who they are and what they will be, but for me there seemed to always be such a conflict as to my ethnicity. I have always listed my ethnicity as White Asian, yes I am born and bred English but I am also Sri Lankan. I think it’s important both of those are involved in my identity. However when talking about this with people they haven’t always understood, some of my best friends when I was 16 laughed in my face for a solid 10 minutes, and my own dad couldn’t understand my ethnicity all because ‘you don’t get white Asians’. It goes without saying that neither of these incidents were meant to be racist or taken that way, they just struck a chord with me as I felt it was important to celebrate my heritage and hurt not to be taken seriously. Now I am older it is easier to just laugh those sorts of comments off, but at the time it left me feeling confused, if I am not White Asian, what am I?

You wouldn’t look at me and think I am Asian, I quite often get mistaken for Spanish or Italian, but that shouldn’t undermine my ethnicity. I grew up with both Sri Lankan and English values, both Sri Lankan and English food and both Sri Lankan and English family. Not only does my last name – Sivakumaran – mean ‘the son of the god Shiva’, I even have Shiva’s third eye and his wife Parvati’s lotus flower tattooed on my ankles, as a reminder of my family and my trip to Sri Lanka. It feels fair and right to include both England and Sri Lanka in my ethnicity.

Although this is something very insignificant to some people, it has always formed a big part of my identity. I am now so proud to say I am White Asian, talk about my ancestry and I feel privileged to have grown up in a huge multicultural family.

See you next time pals x

Author: Ells Jayne

A 21 year old suffering from CFS/ME whilst studying at university in Brighton. Follow my story as I write about living with an invisible illness whilst studying and trying to launch a career.

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