New documentary ‘Being Both’ explores mixed-race identity

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The UK’s fastest-growing ethnic group is comprised of anyone with parents who have two of more different ethnicities – and the varieties within that group are almost endless.

The realities of being mixed-race are unique and often overlooked in mainstream narratives, but documentary maker Ryan Cooper-Brown wants to change that.

His new short documentary film Being Both tackles issues that directly relate to the mixed-race experience, from displacement and family conflict to racism and fetishisation.

But the film is also brimming with hope and shines a light on the many positives that come with having mixed heritage.

The eight-minute film condenses a series of compelling stories from the mixed-race community. It is an intimate and uplifting short that captures the shared challenges, emotions and histories of mixed-race people from the UK, Denmark, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Germany and Japan.

The new documentary aims to change perceptions about mixed-race people (Picture: Ryan Cooper-Brown)

‘I hope the film is the beginning of a series of docu-shorts that will showcase the stories and experiences of mixed-race people from all over the world,’ Ryan tells

‘It is amazing for me to be able to share the notion that mixed-race is more than black and white.

‘The reality is, there are hundreds of different mixes all over the world and they experience the same identity issues and the prejudices we do – sometimes even worse.’

Ryan is one of the founders of a social project – We Are Mixxed Up – that seeks to champion the mixed-race narrative and community through content and messaging.

Being Both aims to give a voice to the growing mixed community and educate people about the fact that ‘you can be a mix of black and white, you don’t have to choose a side.’

‘To be completely honest, I was sick of people – even those who are close to me – labelling me without thinking,’ explains Ryan.

‘Or equally as bad, not having any interest in the fact that I am mixed and what that means.

Ryan struggled to fit in growing up in a mainly white community (Picture: Ryan Cooper-Brown)

‘I would never expect anyone to be super interested in anyone else’s background. But for people to continue to call you one thing, when you identify as another, was and is beyond annoying.

‘And it was that frustration that was the catalyst that forced me to look back at my childhood and the situations that built who I am today.

‘After going through all those feelings, I thought – I cannot be the only one experiencing all this.’

Ryan’s quest is one of education. He wants to shout about the mixed-race experience until it starts sinking in as part of mainstream consciousness.

‘I want mono-racial people to think, be curious, listen and retain information,’ he says.

‘If someone tells you they are not fully ‘one race’, then stop calling them that race.

‘Listen to their stories. Lots of mixed kids come from one-parent families, so get to know how this affected them and how they may have been disconnected from one side of their heritage, for example.

The eight-minute film tells stories from mixed-race people with lots of different backgrounds (Picture: Ryan Cooper-Brown)

‘I was raised by my white mother of Irish heritage, in a predominately white town and I attended very good catholic schools.

‘So, my experience of what society deems “black culture” or, more specifically, “black West Indian culture” was limited, and I think I was detectable. I definitely experienced some colourism from different communities.

‘I had no one to talk to about all this, I never felt I fitted in on either “side”.’

One of Ryan’s greatest frustrations is that his identity so often depends on how other people choose to label him. He wants people to be more sensitive when it comes to making snap judgements and sweeping assertions.

‘Even as a child, it was so frustrating when people would say, “but Ryan, you’re black” to me. I read that as people denying me the one side of my parentage that raised and nurtured me.

‘Take the skin colour away and think about identity. Think about someone never feeling like they fit in, think about those kids in school, young boys having to choose between playing with black kids or the white kids. And often not being accepted by either.

Often, the mainstream understanding of being mixed-race is limited to black and white. But there are so many variations that fall under the mixed category, and Ryan wants to see greater exposure and understanding for all of them.

‘These days there are so many more variations of mix, as we see the West African, Middle Eastern Chinese and Indian communities grow in the UK’ says Ryan.

‘Now is the perfect time to use this blending of races and cultures to bridge communities – you could say that mixed-race people are the future. Get into it!

‘We need to keep reminding people that we are a colourful group of people that are growing and can teach other people a great deal.

‘We are complicated and smart and able to navigate multiple cultures, we are an asset, we are here to stay, and we have a voice.

‘We will benefit from learning how to hold multiple perspectives, and this is something mixed people are born with.’

You can follow We Are Mixxed Up on Instagram and you can read more about mixed-race identity in our weekly series Mixed Up.

MORE: Mixed Up: ‘Being mixed without a white parent is even more challenging’

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MORE: Just like Moise Kean, I shouldn’t have to ‘stay calm’ when faced with racism


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