Alfred Enoch Writes Letter to His Past Self About Growing Up as a Person of Colour in Britain

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Oct 11, 2017

Posted by: Ashley Kurtz | Comments

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Alfred Enoch, better known to us as Dean Thomas in the Potter films, or as the character Wes Gibbins on the ABC drama How to Get Away with Murder, recently wrote an emotional letter to a younger version of himself about growing up in a world as a person of colour.

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Since it’s a particularly tumultuous time for people of colour, it’s extremely poignant that an up and coming actor is speaking out about such an important issue. He wrote the letter after making the jump across the pond from Britain to America; which ultimately caused him to view racism in a different light.

He writes to himself, starting the letter listing prominent African Americans, some of which I’ll admit, I had to Google myself.  He continues on, saying that he’ll learn and grow throughout his life, as we all do. His journey will be different though, after moving to America:

“You’re going to get a job in America. It will change your career. It will change you. More specifically, it will change the way you see yourself. For what I think will be the first time in your life, you will not just be aware, but conscious of your ethnicity. You will become conscious of how that affects the way you are perceived, the way you are treated, and of a wider narrative of which you are a part.” 

Alfred talks about how his growing up in England makes his position in the world very specific, saying, “Having a black Brazilian mother and a white English father has given you two very distinct models for your two nationalities.”  He acknowledges that this makes him unique and that it also makes things strange and difficult:

” With this in mind and the fact that you enjoyed the same extensive educational privileges, it is no surprise that you do not question your place in a society where not all black people feel as comfortable as you do. While some grew up missing the presence of people who looked like them on television, you were watching your own father.” 

Enoch as Titus Lartius in Coriolanus.

Photo: Enoch as Titus Lartius in Coriolanus.

He talks about the struggles that his mother faced moving to the U.K. as a black foreigner, and how strong that made her. He tells about how he was never told that he had to work twice as hard to receive only half as much as white people.

Your mum has never told you this. She has high expectations of you, but she has never framed these in any kind of racial context. She has never disturbed your sense of belonging with warnings about those who might see you differently. Perhaps this was a risk, but it was also an extraordinary feat of parenting.” 

Here in America, it’s apparently incredibly different. It’s so different, that it’s caused him to write this letter – something that shouldn’t have to be said, but it is. He continues:

But in America, it is precisely your identity as an outsider – as a foreigner and a person of colour – that will give you a new perspective on your ethnicity. You will begin to ask, for the first time, what it is to be black in a predominantly white society. You will be challenged by people dear to you, emboldened by people more desperate than you, and welcomed by people unknown to you. You will begin to see the wood as well as the trees.” 

He ends his letter by acknowledging his privilege, and how it has blinded him to the way other people of colour are treated, and he instructs his younger self to “open your eyes.”

Needless to say, Alfred’s letter sends a particularly important message, so we here at Leaky encourage you to read Enoch’s brilliant, poignant piece in full at metro.co.uk.

Last month, Leaky had a chance to talk with Alfred Enoch, along with other actors at LeakyCon, which you can find here.





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