Britain has one of the highest levels of mixed race relationships in the Western world. The number of mixed race people is growing. Half of 'Caribbean' children have one white parent. According to the 1991 census, mixed race people formed 10 percent of the black population.
Nearly half of the Caribbean men born here and a third of Caribbean women have or have had a white partner. So it is little wonder that the issue sparks a great deal of interest and controversy. For the Nazi BNP and those who think like them, a black person and a white person walking hand in hand are a symbol of a decaying Britain. Mixed Feelings by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is the result of in-depth research.
It is packed with moving accounts of the experiences of mixed race couples, their children and parents. It shows how some couples find it easy to be accepted while others face fearsome pressures. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a journalist on the Independent, has written well in defence of refugees.
The book has fascinating information. Did you know, for example, that the two countries which historically passed the most laws against interracial marriage were South Africa under apartheid and the US? But, strangely, Mixed Feelings doesn't deal with the issue of racism very well. For a start Alibhai-Brown repeatedly uses the word 'miscegenation' to describe mixed race relationships. For most people the word is linked to a negative view of relationships between black and white.
Mixed Feelings also puts together a whole range of different views of mixed race relationships without comment about whether they reflect reality or not. So you get someone denouncing 'race dilution' and then a few pages later someone celebrating the same type of relationship. Both are presented as valid sets of 'feelings'.
The book does not set out to ask where racism comes from, who perpetuates it or who benefits from it. Instead it concentrates on individuals and frequently reduces racism to a matter of attitudes, feelings and ideas.
It does not talk about mixed race relationships with regard to unemployment, poor housing, homelessness, poor education, police harassment and access to childcare. There is lots about sex, but nothing about the structures of division inside society which mixed race relations can partially begin to undermine. You will learn something of what it feels like to be in a mixed race relationship in Britain today from this book. But it left me hungry for something which placed the issue in a wider context.
Mixed Feelings: The Complex Lives of Mixed Race Britons, £11.99, available from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 0207 637 1848. Fax 0207 637 3416. Website: www.bookmarks.uk.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org