Raceless is one of those books that I didn’t want to put down, but I also didn’t want it to end.
I was engrossed.
A memoir by British woman. Georgina Lawton, Raceless is about the identity crisis of being born Black into a white family. Her mother had an affair with a Black man. Georgina was raised white. Her blackness was never discussed – and it wasn’t until after her father died of cancer that she probed her racial history.
Georgina’s mother’s affair was never addressed until after her father’s death. Her father never questioned it, her mother never explained it, and her wider family never provoked the topic. Through counseling, she finally interrogated her mother – which revealed a great sense of shame and catholic guilt.
The book has a great insight into Black women’s hair, as well as the Vietnamese wig industry. It also explores the way ancestry websites take advantage of minority groups. It was also alarming to read just how many children are kept from knowing about their racial identity – and also the impacts it has on them. And the concept of micro aggressions was outlined so well.
I also related to the book a little. My mum is black and my dad is white. But I have a rare severe skin condition called ichthyosis – which makes my skin red. I look more like others with ichthyosis than I do my parents. I was raised in Australia, with some contact with my mum’s South African friends, but mostly exposed to white people.
Georgina wrote that she was “slightly overwhelmed to say the least, and very wary of appropriating an identity that was not mine to have.” I wrote about this very thing in both Say Hello and Growing Up African in Australia.
It’s only recently I’ve explored my race, because my skin condition took a lot of space in my mind. Georgina wrote of a man she met – Chrissie who had vitiligo. His skin colour changed due to the skin condition, and he questioned his identity a lot. I found myself nodding along when reading much of the book – especially in this part, and also where the topic of looking past skin colour was covered.
Georgina wrote a lot about her mother’s shame – and the impact it had on her. She wrote that some British people have the tendency to avoid addressing difference – and I thought back to some of the ways I’ve been made to feel shame because my difference has not been addressed – due to people not seeing colour.
Raceless is a really important read – especially for people who are mixed raced, and for everyone else actively working on anti racism. It’s beautiful, vulnerable, truthful writing. I want to read everything Georgina has written.
There is a lot of trauma and shame in Raceless. I hope Georgina repairs things with her mum, and I’m deeply sorry for Georgina’s loss of her father. But there’s also so much hope and education – hope that other mixed race children will not be denied of their race and racial identity; and that the notion of not seeing colour is in fact perpetuating racism.
I listened to the audiobook and Georgina narrated it beautifully. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.