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The Zhivago Affair - Episode 3
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Last on

Sun 27 Jun 2010 13:30 BBC Radio 4 FM only

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 19 January 2010

Kim Normanton talks to three people who are white but black - they come from a black or Asian background and live with albinism. Around 3,000 people in Britain have albinism which means they have little or no pigment - colour - in their eyes, hair and skin. Their unusual situation provides thoughtful insights into questions of identity.

Naseem is 30 and British Asian. She has long fair hair, white skin and pale eyes. She struggled to be accepted by her Asian community and eventually left home and married Richard, who is white British. She says: "Within the Asian community while I was growing up I was seen as a bit freaky. I didn't quite look English but I was meant to be Asian. I did have an identity crisis - who am I, where do I fit in?"

Ayo is 18 and lives in London with his parents, who originally come from Nigeria. He talks about the complications of having parents who are black when he has white skin. "I have African features but my skin is white so I look different. People tend to stare and call me 'white boy' if they don't know my nationality. They say 'You're not black'. I ask 'Where do you think I'm from, then?'"

Mian is 30 and was born and raised in Punjab in Pakistan. He came to Britain 3 years ago to study because he found it impossible to live and study in Pakistan due to abuse and intolerance.

Producer: Kim Normanton
A Loftus Audio production for BBC Radio 4.

  • Personal stories

    Naseem is 30 and British Asian. She has long fair hair, white skin and pale eyes. She’s struggled to be accepted by her Asian community and eventually left home and married Richard who is white British.

    "Within the Asian community while I was growing up I was seen as a bit freaky. I didn’t quite look English but I was meant to be Asian. I did have an identity crisis, who am I, where do I fit in? All teenagers want to fit in. So a lot of the effects of what went on as a child provoked me to make the decisions I made late on in life. I didn’t embrace my culture. It drove me away from it. I feel like I relate more to western people living in Britain because of the colour of my skin."

    Ayo is 18 and lives in London with his parents who originally come from Nigeria. He talks about the complications of having parents who are black when he has white skin.

    "I have African features but my skin is white so I look different. People tend to stare and call me ‘white boy’ if they don’t know my nationality. They say – "You’re not black." I ask "Where do you think I’m from then?" It makes me feel angry. I know why they’re staring but it’s annoying. Everywhere I go I have to explain my story."

    Mian is 30 and was born and raised in Punjab in Pakistan. He came to Britain three years ago to study because he found it impossible to live and study in Pakistan due to abuse and intolerance.

    "I have white hair and pale skin. It’s really a strange experience when your skin is a different colour to your parents' and your sisters'. When I was growing up people swore at me and pointed. They said I was cursed and called me white boy and English man. At first you get a bit hurt. But you get used to it."

    "So these things encouraged me to think am I English or Asian? I realised it might be better for me to be an English man. Where I live here most people are English. I feel more comfortable here. I’m a normal man here. I look like everyone else."

  • The Albinism Fellowship

    The Albinism Fellowship (AlbinismUK) provides information and support for people with Albinism and their families. They also provide information about the condition to professionals.

    The Albinism Fellowship
  • Nystagmus Network

    Nystagmus is a condition which causes an unintentional wobbling of the eyes experienced by most people with Albinism. Nystagmus Network is a UK charity which provides support and information for those with nystagmus. They also foster research and provide information to teachers and parents.

    Nystagmus Network

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