“I always knew what I was. I was female. Mixed race. Age…”
In today’s world, racial politics is very much at the forefront of the zeitgeist, as is the inaccuracy (and cultural bias) of ‘ethnic descriptions’. BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) is a generic term for all ethnic groups, minus caucasians. But there has been a growing dissent regarding this term, as it implies that caucasians are the default group of homo sapiens, while anyone else with varying degrees of melanin in their skin is classed as one, homogenous ‘blob’. For mixed raced people, this is felt even more acutely, as assumptions are made by both black and white people about their ‘ethnicity’ and ‘cultural heritage’… As a mixed race woman, Koko Brown has used her thoughts and experiences in this arena to form the basis of her show, White…
As White is autobiographical in nature, Brown is forthcoming about what it was like to grow up with an Irish mother (and her ‘white’ social circle) and a largely absent Jamaican father. On the one hand, she has always identified herself as mixed race individual. But in terms of her choice of music or men, she’s traditionally been drawn to the ‘white’ variety. Of course, having a preference for anything isn’t a crime. But looking back, the thought at the back of her mind is what if her ‘choices’ are a subconscious ‘rejection’ of her black heritage?
As her train of thought is shared, vocal looping is added at junctures to certain pertinent phrases – their repetition with music transforming the ‘mantra’ into something that feels profound.
Having heard people of all persuasions ask “What are you? Where are you really from?”, this has Brown thinking. Straddling two worlds, Brown – like all mixed race people – has a unique point of view on the politics of race, party to all yet able to assess with an outsider’s persective. Does this mean there is ‘mixed race privilege’? Is there such a thing?
The Black Lives Movement has been a game-changer on many fronts and certainly for Brown who has been to the States, her visit was an eye-opener. For some there, there is ‘middle ground’, no ‘third way’. Just one side of the coin or the other. Regardless of feelings of one’s-own identity, how society treats anyone is a facet of its perception of you…
© Michael Davis 2020
White can be viewed at https://brixtonhouse.co.uk/2020/06/06/house-to-house-white/ until 2nd July.