In case you’ve missed it, we’ve started a new series that will pop up here on the blog every Friday.
Recently I have been inundated with content about racism in every shape and form – from issues with mixed race parents or cross racial adoption to being asked to write about it on Heritage Day. There is just so much that we could say on the topic as it’s still touches a very raw nerve in South Africa (and rightfully so).
Besides the odd intentional racist, I feel like a lot of the hurtful comments are actually just brought about through ignorance. Thinking only of our own personal situations with little regard for others, because that’s all that we know. So in an effort to broaden what we know, I thought I would interview a wide range of South Africans that have a variety of different situations – from mixed race couples to single race couples that adopt cross racially to couples that share the same “race” but differ vastly in terms of culture. A bit of a mumble jumble of everything really.
So let’s get started!
I want this to be a safe space where we can share stories and encourage each other to be more accepting of our fellow South Africans of all race, culture and situation. So while I want to encourage your to comment and open a discussion, I will not tolerate any abusive or troll like comments here.
Today we get to meet a family that is very close to my heart – not only do Jules and I share a birthday (along with Knox), but we were pregnant with our babies at the same time. You can always count on Julia to tell it like it is which is so refreshing nowadays where everything is sugar coated. But enough from me, let me hand over to Julia.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc
I am a Marketer/Product Owner for an IT services start up. As a mom of a toddler and a 6 month old I spend most of my ‘free’ time taking care of their needs and making sure they get enough ‘mommy’ time to fill their tanks. My husband is a full time missionary so our time is also spent serving our church in the Cape Flats and preparing for the various weekly meetings.
I enjoy catching up with friends (or my hubby) over a good decaf latte and a treat. For now that’s all I have time for, but check up on me in 5 years and hopefully a hobby or 2 would have developed and grown as the kids become more independent. Hoping to pick up singing again… a major tank filler for me.
- Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc
As mentioned in the previous question, my husband is a missionary in the Cape Flats. He works along side the poorest of the poor, gangsters, homeless, drug addicts etc. It takes a special kind of person to remain passionate about these communities and to love the people deeply despite the feelings of hopelessness. My hubby is just that kind of person (one in a million).
He ADORES soccer. Playing it, watching it, talking about it. Even more than soccer the LOVES food. He does all the cooking at home because he is so much better than me and he enjoys being in the kitchen. More than anything he loves spending time with his family… super chilled vibes.
- Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.
I was brought up in a white, middle class family. Having come from a divorced home I was exposed to 2 different lives. On the one side we constantly aspired to be, or create the facade of being an upper class home having colonialism at it’s roots with all the airs and graces and dare I say stereotypes. On the other side we were laid back, tolerant, accepting and liked to push boundaries when it comes to those social behaviours that are ‘just not done’. I like to think that I was exposed to many different sides of the white culture making it easier to find my own voice, ideas and opinions.
Kim is coloured and proud of it! He LOVES his heritage and culture. He spent half of his childhood years living in the Cape Flats sharing a 2 bedroom house with his mom, granny, aunties and their children. His mom eventually saved up enough to move out of the Cape Flats, but still in an area that would be deemed predominantly coloured. He grew up without his father around, but the love and special bond between his mom’s side of the family as well as an amazingly supportive step dad that joined the picture a little later, meant he always felt very loved and secure. All he was exposed to growing up was the coloured culture and all the variations thereof. Schools, sports, social.
Tell us all about your gorgeous girls – brag a bit – it’s OK 😉
I always always knew I wanted to be a mommy. I never really aspired to anything else (not for the lack of trying). My 2 girls are my greatest frustration, but my even greater JOY. Alice (2.5 years) is the perfect mix between tomboy and girly girl. At a recent boys adventure birthday party, for example, she was the first to strip almost naked and rough it up in the dirt and mud. We left the party with a little girl who was a number of shades darker than she arrived (due to dirt, not the sun). When we got back home she promptly started playing with her little dolly and miniature handbags. She amazes me everyday with her understanding of things around her and her determined, independent and adventurous nature. Definitely not characteristics she gets from me.
Lucy our littlest is the sweetest thing. Having given me a trying 3 months initially, she has grown into the most relaxed, happy, content and cuddly little girl. She is my absolute pudding. She has just started to sit up on her own which breaks my heart just as much as it fills it. I can’t keep up with how fast they grow. I totally understand how parents can have up to 9 kids. It’s the only way you can keep them small :). Unlike her sister who started sleeping through at 8 weeks, Lucy still wakes up multiple times at night, but I am grateful for the one-on-one time it gives us. My tired eyes, on the other hand, are not as grateful.
- How do you and your partner view race in your relationship? What kind of role does it play in your family? Does it even feature?
Race definitely features. There are parts of my Colonial ‘upright and proper’ background that I enjoy and like to hang on to and there are parts of Kim’s cultural background that he holds dear. Tripe and trotters, pickled fish, kuiter (fish row) are amongst the very many meals my husband adores, but I cannot even look at and simply refuse to cook it. I like to go to pretentious restaurants where certain etiquette is observed and minute portions are served. He will greet every person in a room with a kiss where as I like to enter with a general wave and quiet ‘hello’, before finding my seat in the shadows. When he hangs with or chats to his coloured friends, I cannot even understand what they are talking about. After being together for almost 12 years, I still don’t understand the lingo…I don’t even try anymore. Oh and SHOES…our taste couldn’t be further apart. While I would choose a pair of weathered leather loafers for him, he would choose a pair of patent white leather boot cut Jordans.
We love the difference in ourselves and our cultures. It makes us unique, but also brings us together as we work through our differences.
Bottom line we wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Are there big differences in your marriage relationship that are affected by your heritage/culture?
To be honest the things that effect our marriage are mostly the same things that affect most marriages regardless of culture. The biggest differences that we are challenged with are simply that he is a man and I am a woman and because we work differently in this, we sometimes find ourselves knocking heads.
As a family we make our own experiences, traditions and routines. We’ve built a new home that incorporates the wealth of knowledge and experience from both cultures and blends them to create a messy nest of love and security.
- How have your families reacted to your relationship?
Kim’s family took the news of our engagement much harder than mine. Coming from a very close knit family, his mom and step dad were very concerned about the cultural differences and whether those things would result in an unhappy marriage. My family keep their distance a little more although I reckon are far more opinionated behind closed doors. I guess my family knew that they couldn’t change my mind and so they never really tried. Eventually after having a very constructive meeting with his family where we explained that we were fully aware of what we were getting ourselves into, they came around and welcomed me with open arms into their family.
- What kind of experiences have you or Kim had when you have been out with your kids (alone with them or together as a family)?
Kim is really “fair” so it’s not until he speaks that people know he is coloured. Although people who know him look at us funny (and almost everyone in Cape Town knows him). To be honest if they do, I don’t really notice. And if I notice I actually love it. The shock factor is great.
When I REALLY notice it is with our little boy who we help look after on weekends. As he is not our son legally I will not mention his name here, but we have been taking care of him, along with his aunt, for 6 years. He is black and lots of people stare at us in the malls, on the streets, at restaurants etc. Most times I like the looks and land up holding him closer or grabbing his hand when I notice people are looking. I am also so proud of him that I want to be associated with him whether the reason behind the stares are good or bad. Having said that there have been occasions where my blood has boiled with the comments people have made in ignorance.
- A passing comment a woman made to her boyfriend “I hate it when white people use black kids as an accessory”. What!!!!! Without going into too much detail, our little boy’s mom died of AIDS, he has mental disabilities as a result of being stabbed in the head at 7 months old, his caregiver is in her late 70’s. Looking after him is very hard work and a great privilege. He is a human being that deserves the right to opportunities, security, family and most of all LOVE.
- Some nanny’s in the park asked me whether the reason I have him is because I can’t have children of my own. Nothing necessarily wrong with the honesty of the question, but the tone in which it was asked was not inquisitive, but rather disapproving. Once I told them our story, they’re attitude changed dramatically to point where they insisted we should adopt him full time.
- Did you have any fears about parenting mixed race children before you had them? Have any of those fears changed since becoming a Mommy to kids with mixed genes?
My worries were “what if they have curly hair?…I don’t know how to deal with curly hair…they are going to hate me for sending them to school with a mop on their head” and “what if people treat my children differently because of the colour of their skin?”. Both worries that really never kept me up at night.
I think the thing that makes me sad is that institutions still want to racially stereotype people whether it be schools, employees, universities. Firstly it forces my kids to choose a race rather than be who they are. Such standards create unnecessary pressure and confusion. At home we joke that they should choose which ever gets them the greatest benefits (a joke that shouldn’t even be possible). Secondly they are asking these questions for a reason. A reason I feel is unfair.
In terms of my children’s physical features, I have no worries at all. They are beautiful girls with all their faults. Fearfully and wonderfully made.
In terms of their identity, well we find that is Christ Jesus regardless of any social or racial standards. We see it as a privilege to be able to teach our children that their identity lies in the creator of this world rather than what his creation decides is best.
- Do you have any advice for those new to this experience?
We live in a world where every human is flawed and one of the most intrinsic flaws is that we don’t like people who are different to us. Whether it be racial, social, sexual, spiritual. We find it in our schools, work place, parks, shops. We can’t avoid it. Some are more obvious, more oppressive than others, but the main flaw is simple… we don’t like ‘different’. To change this, our hearts need to be transformed. Transformed to love those who are different to us and transformed to not let closed hearts get the better of us.
I believe that my faith in Jesus Christ is where transformation of the heart begins. Both my husband and I believe that our identity lies in Him. That is what first and foremost brings us together. For others it may be an eye opening experience, education, a supportive community or family. Bottom line is that you can’t change people, but you can choose how you respond. Respond with love, kindness, gentleness and joy for the family you have and even for the haters.