caleydaniels2What a shock some of you reading this will get when you discover that my dad, yes, my biological father, is coloured.

“But you look so white!” many have noted. Well done. It is true – I am a mixed baby, although I got the paler skin of our mother while my brother has many a time been compared to a Mexican. We’ve heard some interesting guesses of our ethnicity over the years: Portuguese, Brazilian, something Mediterranean. So let’s clear it up: what/who am I?

Being born into a democratic country, racial discrimination is something I have heard more about than experienced personally, although there are one or two incidences that have stuck in my memory. I distinctly remember being stared at in a restaurant while travelling through some backward town on our way to the Cape, no doubt due to the shades of our faces. I recall being disturbed by this as a 5 year old and asking why everyone was looking at us. My dad winked at me and said it was because they had never seen such beautiful people in their lives. It’s only now, nearly 20 years later, that I realize how blessed I am to have so tame an experience as my only one of racial discrimination.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town and attend an international school, so the first time I realized that my parents are of 2 different races was in grade 3 when a fellow 9 year old curiously asked me, “Caley, why is your dad coloured?” The heads of the other girls we were sitting with snapped around to look at me, as if they would now be able to see a distinctive difference in my features now that they knew I was not white. The defensive response “He isn’t,” flew out of my mouth for no other reason than to make them stop staring. But it made me think, ‘Why is my dad coloured?’

I didn’t talk to my parents until a few years later when someone told me that people who don’t “stick with their own kind” create “half-breed children who aren’t accepted by society”, as if anyone who was not of one race was something less that human. This was probably the harshest word spoken against me, or at least the one I took the hardest because it came from the mouth of a friend, and it was enough to make me talk to my parents about it. I think another reason it hurt so much was because I was brought up post-apartheid so, naturally finding no fault in cross-cultural friendships, I was shocked to find that people could still be pretty ignorant about that stuff.

The common factor in these 2 incidences is that they both made me feel ugly, and as if there was something wrong with me because I was different in some way to the rest of my peers. I don’t know if other mixed kids would agree, but I think of it now as an attack on my identity and something that almost made me ashamed of the heritage my parents had suffered to let us have.

I believed this more and more firmly as I went through high school, and I began to look back at that moment on the playground with contempt; why would people point out the coloured side of my family, asking why my dad is coloured as opposed to asking why my mom is white? As if “white” was the “correct” race to be and everything else was questionable. It made me extremely protective of my dad to the point of referring to myself as coloured when people asked me. But that’s wrong too; I cannot deny one race group because I am truly both of them: my father’s coiled-haired, dark-featured daughter, my mother’s pale eyed child.

This sense of uncertainty I had about what race I am has hardly bothered me too deeply because it has never been an issue in my family. Our parents brought my brother and me up as Christians, so we know that our true identity is in Christ and not in the box marked “other” on official documents. We weren’t raised in a “white” or “coloured” culture, but instead in one that honours Jesus. Although I moved away from that in my early teenage years (hence the shame and the offense and the extreme pride), I find now, being in a relationship with Him and walking with Him constantly, that my love for God has made me love who He has made me.

To answer the initially posed question; I am…  living, following the example of my legendary parents, by the belief that we are all of one race: Human, and every diversity we have thereafter is something to be celebrated. I am also everything that God says I am: loved and precious and redeemed by the blood of Jesus and forgiven and covered by His grace.

I am also part of a family that can aptly be referred to as the multi-culti-crew. What heroes.

Caleydaniels

[For some stories of couples who are involved in mixed race or culture relationships, click here]

[For more stories and conversations about race from a number of different perspectives, click here]

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