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  • Writer's pictureSumbella

Reflections on Heritage, Race, and Belonging

[#heritage + #CUPA] A couple of years ago, I wrote in my annual review that I kept feeling unsure about matters of heritage and racism. I even wrote that I was confused about how to talk about skin colour.

Surely something so universal shouldn’t have me feeling this anxious?

I understand now that to feel anxiety around matters of race, heritage, and discrimination is often normal, sometimes subconscious and usually deep-set.

Hailing myself from a mixed heritage background (my mother is #English, and my father is #Pashtun, from the Khyberpakhtunkhwa region of #Pakistan), one of the strangest and perhaps more difficult things I experienced growing up was not quite belonging either side.

Having deep love for all of my family, yet always feeling I was neither here nor there.

Having fair skin and noticing the way I was treated over family members with brown skin.

And then throwing religion(s) into the mix, a degree in #Chinese, studying policy around #Uyghurs for my MSc, and living in the #MiddleEast for almost a decade…

It took me a long time to feel centred in my identity, let alone to be able to talk about it like this.

As a result, I sometimes found myself seeking perspective on a figurative mountain top - one that I had climbed up to think through things.

All of that (often frustrated) pondering helped in different ways:

🌿 to become more observant about nuances of race, culture & belonging.

🌿to see how privilege comes into play and the impact that skin colour has when navigating the world we live in.

🌿to set out on a path of learning, reading and carefully leaning into difficult conversations, instead of avoiding them.

As I reflect on this, I share with you a related milestone that happened this past few days:

I’ve become Co-Chair of the Racial Equality and Ethnicity Balance #Network at Cambridge University Press & Assessment. ✨

We also call it #REEBN for short (if you work in #education or #publishing you’ll know it’s just not quite right unless there is an #acronym involved 😊).

For me, it’s only been a few days since joining as Co-Chair, but I am already feeling grateful and recognising the benefits of connecting with compassionate colleagues from all around the world.

To be around others who also lean into and face these discussions respectfully is uplifting.

A while back, I heard this advice when I felt rather alone - and I feel like I've finally followed it through now:

‘Find the others.’

Have you found yours?

If you're a fellow colleague at Cambridge, I hope to see you at an upcoming event. We are doing a cook-along of Nigerian fried rice soon! All welcome - spots are limited.

If you're a #teacher & #friend: Does your school or organisation have similar initiatives you can get involved with? I’d love to know.

📸 Carrying bags off for a #Cambridge event circa 2021, at the doors of the former Press office in Dubai. 🙋🏻‍♀️

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