She always believed she was white until her father died...

Posted by Sidney, 16 Feb

When journalist Georgina Lawton was growing up, her mother always told her that she was white like her. Lawton is one of the mixed race individuals who have been raised by white parents. You would think her memoir is about transracial adoption. It isn't. Interestingly, her Irish mother who was married to a Brit named James gave birth to Georgina...

When the midwife suggested that the child's complexion was darker, James never asked no questions. After the midwife mentioned that it could  due to an inherited “throwback gene”, that became the explanation the family stood by when someone asked why Lawton looked different from her brother and parents. Lawton's friends were white.

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She was surrounded by whites in her English suburbs so all her life, she had no reason to think she was any different. As she grew older her darker skin and her kinky hair made her a target of racial prejudice and discrimination. Her household adopted the color-blind idea. They didn't acknowledge that she was different nor did she have access to black culture. She had no idea how to make a connection of who she was.

"Why don’t you scratch yourself white?" is the question that brought the confusion about her appearance when a 5-year-old girl she was playing with asked her. Lawton can vividly remember the finger scratch as the girl scrapped her 'beige' (as she calls it) forearm. As I mentioned earlier, much as her she had colored skin, she had always believed she was white.

The  story she had been fed throughout her life, a story that she had believed all her life was that  she wasn't switched at birth, neither was she a product of an affair by the mother or transracial adoption. She just happened to inherit dark genes from a dark-skinned Irish relative from the mom's side. She was told that the black gene had skipped some generations.

After her father died, that was when the truth started coming out. She had to deal with the shocking truth that all her life, the man she called dad wasn't her father. Lawton was in fact a product of a brief affair between her mum and some other guy. Do you know what? His father, sharp as he was with his Economics degree never once questioned the "gene" story that the mom stuck with. Even her white brother never questioned that either. Everyone just ignored her different looks.

The thing is, being surrounded by a bubble of whiteness, Lawton didn't think about race because at home she was a happy white girl. When she left inside and then someone brought up that she was different, that was when it bagged her.

Once though at the age of 9, her dad ticked the "prefer not to say" box when he was asked to classify Lawton's race. When she asked him why he checked that box, he said looking flustered, “Because it’s none of anyone’s business.”

The self doubt started overwhelming her at 15 when she became bulimic so she would change her body shape. She started bleaching her hair at 17 and became overly defensive when someone asked her why she looked different. Once she was asked to go queue with a Caribbean couple at the airport baggage check-in instead of her own family. That she admits made her feel alienated and more confusion kept building up.

Whenever she was bombarded with such incidents, she would go home and demand for answers from the parents. But the parents stuck to their story that she was their biological daughter which meant that she was white. So when strangers would ask Lawton about her identity, it became easier to tell them that she was half-Jamaican.

When the dad was bed-ridden with cancer, Lawton knew that that was her last chance to get to the bottom of things. Eventually, the dad decided to give her a DNA sample. That was when she discovered they had no blood relation. The truth about her squashed racial identity started coming to light. When she received the email at work, much as she had some doubts about her identity, she "felt like my blood had been sucked from [her] body with a syringe."

So she called her mum who said that she was as shocked as she was. She kept denying it for a whole month of questions and arguments until she finally cracked. After threatening to have a DNA test using blood from the grandparent's from her dad's side, that's when she admitted to having had a one-night-stand with a black man from Dublin.

Nothing can prepare anyone for such! Lawton's life has never been the same... She has been mad at her mum ever since wondering why she couldn't have just told her the truth all those years.

So she decided to flee from England to explore her denied identity in places that had black communities - from the US to Hispanic countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, even to Africa. She was seeking for answers on how to cope in the world as a black woman.

Up to date, the mother still finds it hard to discuss how her lies have impacted her which heightens her feelings of loneliness and isolation.

2 responses to "She always believed she was white until her father died..."

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  1. Posted: 5 days ago

    All I can say is Wow. I am speechless.

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  2.   echo1331 says:
    Posted: 5 days ago

    I saw this online somewhere as well. She is so beautiful and brave.

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