gradidges

When Brett asked for some volunteers on this topic I sprung at the chance but it has taken me a while to get some words down as I wasn’t sure what to say or what aspect to focus on or what I really wanted people to get out of this post… To be honest I am still not 100% sure but I hope either way it will challenge you to think deeply about race, relationships and your own prejudice.

My name is Kathy and I am married to Philippe. I am white. Philippe is coloured. [Brett: While we realise that in Americaland, calling someone ‘coloured is highly offensive, in South Africa it is the descriptive name of one of the diverse groups that make up our beautiful country and so it is helpful to know that, especially if you are from Americaland]

We will be married 5 years in June. Our relationship was pretty whirlwind… we met, went on our first date 1 week later and within 3 months were already talking about getting married, got engaged after 6 months and married a year (almost to the day) after meeting.

When my Grandmother met Philippe for the first time she said to me “You do realise he isn’t white?” To be honest I had noticed! But mostly our friends and family were supportive. We got used to the stares by strangers (and there are stares) by giving them something to stare at (mostly long kisses!)

The differences in our upbringings were not too huge… We both come from families with 2 parents with similar values and beliefs and we both have siblings (Philippe a few more than me). We both attended university and actually met while both doing our Masters.

I, however could attend any school I wanted and was never given hassles about the colour of my skin. I, however could go to any beach I wanted and was never asked to leave because of the colour of my skin. My family could live wherever they wanted and not only in a “coloured” area.

I think back to my preconceived ideas about coloured people (with a bit of shame) and how I asked him if he was ever in a gang or was there gang violence in the area he grew up in?  Embarrassing really!?

Being in an inter- racial relationship has taught me on the one hand that it really is true – we are all the same. It has also taught me on the other hand- that we are not. We are not the same in how we handle situations, how we relate to people, how we think about situations such as politics or race. BUT I don’t think those things are due to differences in race. I think they are due to differences in upbringing, education, life experiences and family interactions.

And here is another BUT…

BUT In South Africa where privilege is very tied up in race because of our history, race does ultimately have an impact on your socioeconomic status, your education, your life experiences and even your family set up. And so does result in differences and sometimes divisions.

In our marriage, we love to joke about “it’s cos you are coloured” “it’s cos you are white” and we can because it is our safe space. But we also tread carefully around race when we are fighting/ arguing because an attack on race may be misinterpreted as an attack on the other person’s identity, culture and family. What we try keep in mind is that these differences are not necessarily race related but upbringing, family and personality differences…

Marriage is hard work and an inter-racial marriage is at the end of the day just a (more colourful) marriage. Coming into marriage I unconsciously felt my (and therefore my family, culture, races) way of doing things was the right way. I have to consciously remind myself that my way isn’t necessarily the right way.  And I don’t always get it right. But it feels like a good thing, a positive thing- to think outside my small box of past experience. And it is a great thing to navigate life and all these new experiences with the love of my life, even if he has more melanin than me!

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Kathy also wrote a piece about her son which i want to include here as well:

My name is Kathy and I am white (a particularly pale white!) and I am married to Philippe who is coloured. We have a son who is… (Pick an option)

a) coloured b) white c) white/ coloured d) who cares!

One of my most vivid rac(ial)(ist) moments with my son was when I took him to the local Dischem to have his immunisations. As I got there I turned my back to the queue to fill in the sign in sheet (so I didn’t lose my place in the queue).  While I had my back turned with my son staring over my shoulder at the people already waiting this old lady says to her son (in not her inside voice): Wasn’t that a white lady? How does she have that child?

Needless to say her son was VERY embarrassed and apologised profusely and explained his mother was a little senile… Out of the mouths of… senile old ladies???

I also get asked a lot “ What nationality is his dad?” I think this is people’s polite way of asking whether his dad is white/ black/ coloured/ indian.

I think our sons (racial) identity is one of the things that I think about a lot. In South Africa being coloured is a distinctive racial group. This is different from other countries where coloured is more a term used for people of a mixed race. In SA coloured people have a separate culture, language and identity. And although us white English SA’s often complain that we don’t have a definite identity or culture, we do.

In raising a child you realise that your identity is pretty tied up in your race and culture. And I am aware that knowing your identity and culture are important factors in feeling secure in who you are. Luckily as Christians we have a new identity and culture. And as a family we are trying to create our own traditions that merge our different cultures and identities and create a safe place. A safe place where he can grow up secure in the knowledge that although he doesn’t fit neatly into a census check box he is loved, he is our son, he is Gods son and he has a place in this world.

 

[For other stories on Mixed Race and Culture connections, click here]

[For other conversations on all different aspects of Race-related things, click here]

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