To White People I Am Black

To White People I Am Black And To Some Black People I Am White

I am not a mule, although I have been known to make an ass of myself. My name is Terence Facey. I am a photographer, born of mixed parentage. I use photography as a means of documenting my search for identity.

My mother was white English, my father was a West Indian of African descent. Social attitudes at the time of my birth thirty-two years ago were such that my parents were unable to sustain their relationship and they each returned to their respective communities. In that separation, I too became divided. When they withdrew from my life, I was placed in a children's home, along with many children of similar backgrounds. We were raised by white house-parents and given a good, English, 'middle-class' upbringing. Although this taught us about our English heritage, it failed to educate us about the consequence of the other side of our cultural heritage. The identity I developed holds the many and diverse tensions which were inherent in a meeting of these two cultures, and my removal to a third.

Being born out of wedlock of mixed race parentage implies a double illegitimacy and a highly precarious social existence. For many people, the depth of taboo and controversy which surrounds the subject of interracial sex is so great that it renders the product of such relationships, the children, invisible. Often those people cannot recognise, understand or share our experience. It is as if we don't exist. This denial of our existence leaves important questions unanswered and aspects of our identity unconfirmed. To white people I am black and to some black people I am white. Neither are prepared to accept my undeniable place in both communities. I represent the disturbing reality of the meeting of the two. In searching for the identity which disappeared with my parents, I have tended to divide their two cultures and look to each one separately for answers. Eventually, I began to see that the two cultures are inextricably woven within me and the resulting tensions are inseparably bound up with mine. My identity is inseparable from theirs.

Reformulating my racial identity through photographic representation, I find a balance in conflict and division and this enables me to see who I am.

Terence Facey (© Copyright 1994 Facey)

People in Harmony News Letter Issue 13 July 1996