Today has been one of those days for me. My laptop wouldn’t switch on, then I spilled my coffee and then I realised that I hadn’t done my Mixed Race family post for the day yet!
But it’s Friday and I live in Cape Town, so I’m sure I can get away with sharing it with you a little later than normal.
Also, for those of you that enjoy this series (I know there are many of you out there) won’t you please leave comments of any additional questions you think I should be asking. As a person already in a mixed race relationship, I sometimes take some things for granted, but maybe you can help me with things you’ve always wanted to know.
For now, Roxanne is going to share her special story with us – thanks Roxanne!!
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc
My name is Roxanne and I am a children’s ministry pastor at a church in Hilton, Kwa Zulu Natal. I am originally from Cape Town and so one thing I love doing is visiting my friends and family in Cape Town. We are quite lucky as we get to visit quite a few times in the year. I also like to sleep, read and eat, occasionally watch movies and binge watch series, spending time with friends is always great – I have a 9 month old so “free time” is a relative concept.
Ed’s note: I hear you girl! What even is free time?
Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc
My amazing husband is Greg. He is a missionary and works with the kids who live on the streets of Pietermaritzburg. He is a part of a team that builds relationships with these kids and support them. This is done in the hopes that these children will eventually accept their help and be taken off the streets and either placed back with their families, who they work with to build up the family unit, or be placed in another safe environment. Greg loves kids and often helps me with the kids ministry at our church. He loves soccer and plays indoor soccer as often as he can. My husband is a total geek (so am I, actually!) so you will always see him smiling if he is playing XBox, reading comics and scifi or watching any Marvel/DC movie..
Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.
I am a Cape Coloured. I was brought up in Christian family and family has always been a priority for us. Greg is White, he is also American. He was also brought up in a Christian, close knit family.
Where do you live? Does how you are “accepted” change when you visit different places?
We now live in South Africa’s “Sleepy Hollow” – Pietermaritzburg. Everyone in our community knows us and has accepted us, although we occasionally get stares – I just pretend we’re celebrities. When we are in Cape Town we feel totally at home in our relationship – you cannot go anywhere in CT without seeing mixed race couples/families. Greg’s family is in the MidWest in the US and so it is a little more conservative – while I think people are less used to seeing mixed families, we have always felt accepted when visiting.
What kind of role does race play in your family dynamic?
We do acknowledge that we are 3 shades of South Africa’s rainbow nation and we all have our own bottle of shampoo (LOL) but besides that race does not feature prominently in our family.
Do you discuss race with your children?
As yet we have not had to discuss race with our little girl. I am sure there will be many conversations in the future about why we all look different. We know that when that day arrives that we will be honest with her and tell her about South Africa’s sad history and tell her how she gets to be a part of a future that does not judge people on the colour of their skin (we hope that we can eventually get their as a nation one day). We will teach her that everyone is important and that their skin colour does not define who they are. We will love her and teach her to love others too. We will remind her that we are the children of a creative God who loves making us different to one another. We know that she might suffer with a culture identity crisis one day – Cape coloured mom, white american dad while ethnically she is black and Zulu. All we can do is love her and teach her as much as we can about all three cultures and let her decide what she identifies with.
How have your families reacted to adopting cross-racially?
Our families have been incredibly supportive. Both families love her to bits and were very happy to welcome her into the family – she is the 2nd grandchild on both mine and Greg’s side of the family. We did have to have some conversations with family about not sharing too much of our girls history (that’s her story to tell one day) – but that had less to do with them reacting to her race and more to do with other people asking them details as it is quite obvious that she is not biologically related.
What kind of experiences have you had when you have been out with your kids (alone with them or together as a family)?
Most experiences and stories are funny and entertaining. We are lucky that we have not had anything hurtful said in front of our girl. One story was when we were away on the KZN South Coast – we were in a checkout queue – Greg in front and me with the pram behind him. Greg was pulling faces at her and she was giggling up a storm. An older white gentleman in front of Greg pleasantly jokes that Greg needs to be careful – babies are catching, implying that Greg may end up wanting a baby – He almost died of embarrassment when he realised that Greg was indeed the baby daddy. Another story, I was with a group of friends at a moms group and guest commented how tall our girl is (I am “just a little” short) and asked if her dad is tall. I responded, “Yes, her dad is tall” because yes, Greg is tall. Everyone around had a good laugh..
What are some of the ignorant and hurtful things that have been said to you and your kids about this issue?
We find that people often think its OK to ask quite personal questions about our girls history. Things like “why was she put up for adoption?” or “do you know her HIV status?” – the HIV one in particular blows my mind! No one would dare ask those questions of a biological parent but somehow it’s OK to ask them of adoptive parents. Honestly, most of the ignorant things have been said about the fact that she is adopted and not so much that she is black and we’re not. We often get stared at – sometimes I wonder if people are playing “which one of these does not belong” when looking at our family.
What do you think we can do to combat this ignorance/stupidity?
We just keep educating people about inter-racial adoption. And when they stare, we smile.
Did you have any fears about parenting children of a different race before you had them? Has this changed now that you are their Mom/Dad?
We had no fears at all before entering into this and for the most part it hasn’t changed. We have had to learn how to brush our girls hair – actually, hair in general has been a learning experience for Greg. He’s had to learn about “swirlkouse”, rolling hair, and the fact that you have to condition your hair – but that’s more because he is married to a coloured woman, than him having a black daughter. One thing that is not a fear but has been something that we were not prepared for, is the hands on culture of the Zulu community. We have very quickly had to get used to the fact that in the Zulu community it “takes a village to raise a child” – this means that there are often cashiers, waitresses, security guards, shoppers and loads of random strangers that want to pick up, cuddle and sometimes kiss our girl. The first couple of times this happened I almost flipped – what if this stranger wants to steal my child?! Now we know it’s a culture thing and we are much more comfortable with it – although I always keep a beady eye on whoever has her.
Do you have any advice for those new to cross-racial adoption?
Learn as much as you can about your babies culture – if possible teach them one of the South African languages and you try learn it yourself. Don’t let race become a big deal but do acknowledge that there is a difference. Celebrate those differences together as a family!
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.
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.