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 of how their words will affect other people. 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 races, cultures and situations. So while I want to encourage you to comment and open a discussion, I will not tolerate any abusive or troll like comments here.
Today we get to see behind the scenes of another gorgeous couple. Reading through Laurens answers made me reflect so much on my own relationship, except of course for the fact that we’ve never left South Africa (unless you count a hockey tour to Namibia which I don’t). From now on you’ll find me living vicariously through their blog – The Travel Manuel or enviously scrolling through their Instagram feeds. Ok, enough from me, get ready to start reading!
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc
We are Lauren and Vaughan McShane, a Capetonian couple currently living in Malaysia. We are travel journalists who share stories through writing, photography and videography. We’re a pretty active couple, with a love of adventure and feel cramped if we’re not outdoors near the ocean, in the mountains or exploring nature (above and below the waters). We’re always on the lookout for secret and superb coffee shops, coastal towns and ways to get to new places.
Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc
Vaughan is an outgoing, sociable, spontaneous guy who would happily spend 80% of his time in the ocean or water surfing, diving, kayaking and more. He left a life of accounting behind and now enjoys location independent work of web development, writing, photography and social media strategy. He is the wild, adventurer to my responsible and organised self and together we make the best team.
Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.
I am coloured and he is mixed with a coloured mom and white father. Although during Apartheid his mother was declared ‘white’ for the purposes of being able to live with her husband and have a family. We both grew up in Christian families attending church, youth groups, camps and outreaches. He attended Wynberg Boys High School and I attended Wynberg Girls High School and even before we met in Grade 11, we lived only 20 minutes away from each other.
Where do you live? Does how you are “accepted” change when you visit different places?
We are currently based in Malaysia. Just because it’s Asia, there is a general separation between locals and foreigners. So all foreigners stand out and can feel isolated depending on the place. In Cape Town we were ‘accepted’ mostly as the amount of mixed race couples has grown tremendously since I was at high school and most people don’t look twice. In smaller towns, especially Afrikaans towns like Jeffrey’s Bay where Vaughan lived for a while, we do stand out way more and people are not as welcoming towards us.
Having previously lived overseas, do you face any adversity having married outside of your race and culture?
In Thailand and Malaysia we don’t face adversity as a mixed race couple. Racism however is huge in Asia, but mostly within their races. In Asia fair people with white skin are always favoured and dark skin is always seen as lessor in many ways. Living in Korea alone before I was married was worse for me as I had to face the initial feelings of isolation, people staring etc alone. With Vaughan, we have to face general adversity in a new country together.
I know babies may not be on the cards right now, but do you have any fears/excitement about having “mixed race” babies in the future?
Only excitement. Vaughan is a mixed race baby and he had a wonderful childhood. Plus South Africa is slowly becoming a place where young people of every colour are starting to be able to study at the same places, enjoy the same activities and opportunities and live in the same areas. Plus mixed race babies are always the most beautiful 😉
What kind of role does race play in your family dynamic?
Hardly any. We are way more similar than we’re different so it isn’t something that comes often and when it does, it’s the two of us poking fun at stereotypical mannerisms of white and coloured people.
How have your families reacted to your relationship and subsequent marriage?
From the very beginning my family loved Vaughan and the same can be said of my relationship with his family. We were lucky to attend schools with kids of mixed races and grew up with friends of all religions and races. So it was never a shock for either of our families when they found out we were dating.
Are there big differences in your marriage relationship that are affected by your heritage/culture?
One big difference is that I’ve got a bigger family than he does and we have always been very family oriented. Spending weekends, leisure time and anytime really with aunts, uncles and cousins whereas he only used to see extended family for birthdays and special occasions. I think that took him awhile to get used to, but now he really loves being a part of big, close family and all the braais, street cricket and family teas we have on weekends.
What are some of the ignorant and hurtful things that have been said to you and your husband about this issue?
None that I can recall. The only hurtful things people have said about or two me have been about my individual culture and upbringing and how I spoke differently to many coloured children who didn’t attend model c schools.
What do you think we can do to combat this ignorance/stupidity?
I don’t think there is much you can say to change someone’s mind or ignorance. They have to do this themselves. But despite their negative actions/thoughts towards you, you can choose to show them love regardless and show them who you are. At the end of the day, country, race and culture aside there are always more things which make us all similar than things which are different.
Do you have any advice for those in a mixed race relationship that are facing judgement because of it?
We’ve been quite lucky and haven’t really had to deal with this in a big way. It really is up to you too to ignore racist remarks/looks and actions. Anger and unforgiveness in your own heart will only affect you in the worst way. Remind yourself that they are ultimately unhappy and choose to lash out to make themselves bigger. You have found love, joy and hopefully peace in the life and marriage you have. Rejoice in that and walk proudly. I love the saying ” People will stare, make it worth their while.”, it reminds me to care less and less about what others think of me and that if they want to, they’re going to stare. We need to be confident and happy with ourselves, shake it all off and hold our heads high.