During his time with One Direction, Zayn Malik largely declined to speak at length about race and religion. But now that he's branched out on his own, he's taken a more transparent approach to the press, and has since opened up about his personal experiences with racism and prejudice.

Zayn -- born to a Pakistani father and English mother of Irish descent -- told The Evening Standard about the confusion he faced growing up, while trying to cultivate his own identity within his mixed-race background.

"It was very confusing," he said, "because I’d see dad as dad and mum as mum. I didn’t see colour, I didn’t see religion, I didn’t see race. And then obviously as you get older, you start to develop your identity and see who you are and where you’re from and which group you belong to. So that was also very confusing."

The Mind of Mine singer continued, saying his parents explained racism to him as an unavoidable reality and encouraged Zayn to be respectful of everyone, despite their beliefs.

"I was lucky that my mum and dad would always explain it to me: 'This is just the way it is, this is some people’s belief, this is the way that they’ve been brought up. You’re brought up differently so you’ve got to respect everybody and hope that people respect you in return,'" he said.

That approach seems to have inspired Zayn's own diplomacy regarding prejudice, as he explained racism as "just very old-fashioned views: there's a lot of old people there and they're stuck in their ways."

"That generation were taught a certain way, that’s all they know," the "She" singer continued. "Towards the end of the 1980s, beginning of the 1990s, you had mixed families all over the place, and those older people didn’t really understand that. They didn’t understand that you can be white and you can be brown. You can be from England and a Muslim and be from Pakistan and be a Christian. People found it very hard to distinguish between religion and culture and race."

Zayn then delved into his own experiences, detailing the racism he faced in school, saying he was often picked on by his classmates because of his background.

"I got excluded, got in fights. Nine times out of ten, the fights were due to racial things," he said. "I never really dwelled on this in the past, but I do believe it is something that people should know — this is who I am, this is where I’ve come from. It’s not so much that it hurts — it’s what builds you as a person. What you learn from that. I have an understanding of certain issues."

And while the former One Direction singer is aware he's not particularly vocal about certain topics, at least in the public sphere, Zayn insists his silence shouldn't be confused for apathy or ignorance.

"Just because I don’t dwell on those issues, doesn’t mean I don’t know," he said. "I am aware of what things go on. I am aware that people grow up in racially segregated communities."

Head over to the Evening Standard to read their full profile with Zayn.

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