Former How To Get Away With Murder star Alfred Enoch has penned a revealing essay for Metro about how moving to America changed his perspective on race and ethnicity.
The actor, who appeared in the Harry Potter franchise as Hogwarts student Dean Thomas before joining the ABC drama, wrote a letter to "Alfie" — a.k.a. his younger self — in which he described how his experience as a mixed-race man differed when he left his home country of England.
The real-life Wes Gibbons is the son of a Black Brazilian mother and a white English father. It wasn't until 2014, when Enoch moved in order to join the cast of Shondaland series How To Get Away With Murder, that the TV star changed his perspective on his racial identity.
Growing up well-educated and watching his father, also an actor, perform on screen, Enoch stated that he never thought much about how presenting mixed-race would affect him. Speaking to his younger self, Enoch wrote:
"A friend once mentioned to me 'that thing all black mothers tell their children: that you have to be twice as good to get half as much.' 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."
"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 concluded the Metro letter by reminding his younger self (as well as readers of the letter) to stop being blinded by privilege.
"It was America that helped me first to begin to see racial injustice, and then to see my own blindness. All I ask of you is that you open your eyes."