If this festive season has reminded me of anything, it’s that although we think race is no longer a “big issue” – it really freaking is. So I hope that now, more than ever, these stories about real people that have overcome this problem, will help those that are still struggling to move past our awful history.
Is this is the first time you’re joining us? If it is, a big fat WELCOME, it’s good to have you stop by. Fancy catching up on all these other interviews that you have missed? Here are the other features – make yourself a hot cup of the good stuff, and settle in for some reading.
Here’s a little bit of background as to why I want to do this series and why I want YOU to read it and share it with your friends. I am one half of a mixed race marriage (if you want to read my story, check it out here) and we have had our fair share of adjusting to this new life that is often not accepted by everyone.
Besides the odd intentional racist, I feel like a lot of the hurtful comments floating around are actually just brought about through ignorance about 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.
Let’s get started.
If you would like to join in and be featured in this series or know of someone that would, please feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
This week we meet Grant and Rachel who have both answered my questions. I’m dying to see what they said, so let’s jump straight in.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc
My name is Rachel and I am in public relations. I enjoy cooking, hiking, reading a good history novel, watching Netflix and writing for my blog. Family is important to me and I have rather a large extended one. I have to be creative to stay sane.
My name is Grant McPherson which does come as a shock to many foreigners i.e. where’d you get that surname? What is the heritage of your family? Etc etc. I enjoy boating, the ocean (above it, not floating in it particularly), photography, writing and music. I am an outdoorsy type that enjoys running.
Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc
My fiancé Grant is a project manager and loves sneakers, good music, photography and road trips (AKA glamping).
My fiancé is a 2nd generation hippy having been born in England yet with a mixed heritage in it herself. Her Dad is South African whilst her Mum is a born and bred Londoner. She is in Public Relations, loves culture and everything that is associated with it – if she could somehow capture every nuance of what happens out there into words she would. She is probably the most kind and giving person that I know.
Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.
I am white, British born but Cape Town at heart. Liberal, democratic, hippy even. He is “Cape Coloured” – a mix of Malay, Scottish, Zulu and more and more well spoken than me!
I am “coloured”, a term that I am not 100% comfortable with as my background is very much a Caucasian middle class upbringing, which my parents afforded and surrounded me with. This was tough as it created a sense of “who am I?”. Only recently have I embraced this mixed upbringing and forged my own story.
Where do you live? Does how you are “accepted” change when you visit different places?
We live in Muizenberg – a very mixed, very laid back community. When we visit small ‘dorps’ we sometimes get looks I guess, but mostly it’s no big deal (or at least I don’t notice). In England everyone was obsessed with Grant, especially when he was explaining about Apartheid.
Muizenberg! I have always been drawn here. When I went to crèche my Mum always brought us to good ol’ Muizenberg beach & it has just stuck with me. Maybe now more so than ever as it is just such an eclectic community with characters & acceptance. Rachel tends not to notice the subtle prejudices but I seem to pick up on it more. Some people are just really intrigued by us and others are weirded out which is strange to both of us.
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?
We’re not sure about kids and are even thinking of adopting, but if we did have a baby biologically it would be crazy-cool to see how they turned out. Grant’s mum has green eyes, and I’m blue-eyed and pale as ever – he has gorgeous Asian hair and of course a natural resistance to this African sun! Which I would appreciate in my kids haha.
Whoa.. Kids! Haha. Personally I believe that parenting is probably one of the toughest roles that any adult would ever take on and we are happy to take our time. Adoption is definitely on the cards for us but if we had to choose to have our own I am sure that she/he will be beautiful.
What kind of role does race play in your relationship?
It adds greater dimension to our relationship I think, but I think that’s more to do with how we have different backgrounds and experiences – for example I was brought up spiritual / agnostic and his mum is Catholic, my parents are a bit naïve when it comes to SA’s crime and Grant is more security conscious. Living in such a diverse place as South Africa I find it’s useful to have that reminder and insight into the different worlds to maintain perspective and have better understanding.
It has been a learning curve for us; especially the manner in which each sets of parents treats us as their kids. Very different. We have settled and found our common grounds and this has been great.
How have your families reacted to your relationship and desire to marry/marriage?
The issue of race never came up, but our parents didn’t naturally gel at first due to their contrasting approaches to life i.e. conservative versus liberal/Eurocentric. All parties were thrilled when Grant proposed!
Never an issue. Rachel’s upbringing was fairly different to mine, with her parents encouraging their kids to be outspoken, finding their own voice and making their own decisions. Mine were always keen to be involved. She clashed with not talking back to your elders thing but we are all good now.
Are there big differences in your relationship that are affected by your heritage/culture?
Again, some Cape coloured communities are very conservative and care a lot about what other people think of them. There is also some sexism in the older generations that I struggled with at first. They also don’t always talk about things in the open – but I think that’s just my crazy family! Also our vegetarianism was not understood by a lot of people in Grants family I think haha.
Wow. I was the black sheep of the family so in my journey to find my own pathway there was a lot of misunderstanding from my parents whilst much more acceptance from hers.
What are some of the ignorant and hurtful things that have been said to you and your fiance about this issue?
I’ve only had one incident where an older white man was shocked and almost outraged I was dating a coloured man. It seemed completely unwarranted and didn’t make any sense at all to me, so I didn’t really take it personally and actually found it pretty funny, before I realised I should be offended. But there’s not much point arguing with grumpy old men! I find that people who are racist just have this fixed idea for whatever reason and likely the only way they will change that is by interacting with people of the colour they have assumptions about with an open mind.
Ummm initially in our relationship I was accused of being one these “flashy coloured guys that just use white chicks for one thing then dump them to the side” which shocked me. Luckily we have moved on from that moment.
What do you think we can do to combat this ignorance/stupidity? Do you have any advice for those in a mixed race relationship that are facing judgment because of it?
I feel really sorry for those who’ve experienced issues with being in a mixed relationship and I wouldn’t be sure how to advise, as I’ve never really had an issue. I can understand it’s difficult to have those close to you make judgments just because of the colour of your chosen partners skin. My only advice would be just do what you do and show pride and resilience in your decision. And maybe get some new friends! I often just feel sorry for those people who are racist for no warranted reason and sometimes debate for the sake of showing there is no logic or reason behind racism. We’re in the new South Africa man! Among my close friends and family, I have a zero tolerance for even suggestive racism and like to keep an open mind and not make assumptions about people, no matter how hard it can be at times. Essentially people are people and some can be awesome and some can be awful – no matter the colour or culture.
Never to forget that the individuals that are in this mixed relationship are the most important people involved. No matter what people say, do or act like it doesn’t matter. As long as there is honesty, openness, communication and love none of these trivial issues will matter. Change starts with us and we will just ease the transition for future generations to come.