My favourite analogy for any kind of hate, prejudice and bias goes like this:
It’s like getting angry and intervening when someone orders cake because you’re on a diet.
So my romantic relationship has essentially come to an end – or been placed under witness protection, I don’t even know – because of the cesspool of diseased logic that runs under the skin of most members of the previous generation of South Africans. My boyfriend’s father could not and still cannot comprehend, let alone accept, his son dating a black woman. I cried – oh did I cry – the night he told me his dad had intervened. I mourned the position we were in, I mourned for the petty box I’d been shoved into, and I mourned that the man I adored was caught between a rock and a hard place all because apparently I’m the wrong colour to love. I scared myself one morning where, on a whim, I inhaled his scent in one of the jerseys I’d let him wear, and it actually almost undid me. The only other time that’s happened was after that fateful day in 2010. We didn’t speak for two days – he says we were allowing for time to process, but truth be told I was terrified of the response I’d get if I sent him a message. Not anticipating hostility, just detachment. Six weeks of having spoken every day nonstop and now I was too nervous talk to the guy. I finally did send him a message, asking what our plan of action is. His response, though confusing, left me with this to contemplate, dissect and finally resolve to implement:
We’ll stay in each other’s lives, no matter what the nature of our relationship, but for now it’ll have to be hush hush and different.
NOW. Throughout this debacle, I’d ranged from feeling angry to hurt to just plain defeated. I’d contemplated apologizing for being born black, but explaining that I love his son. I’d contemplated detaching completely (a brief endeavor because my mind went no). Finally I settled on working around the suggestion of the one whose opinion I actually did give a shit about. But the whole time I was thinking, “Is this what my life will be like in this country? I can’t date who I want because there’s a chance, higher than it should be, that someone will try to ‘step in’ and correct us?” The bile in my throat must have left stains on the way back down because all I see now is how nobody is fully willing to admit how wrong that is. Of course, nobody ever wants to be labelled a racist, but there’s this tangible underlying accusation of it is a little wrong tho. So here’s my thing. You can crusade against racism, down with racial stereotypes (unless they’re funny to you, apparently) and all that nonsense but as soon as the topic of an interracial relationship comes up, all of a sudden a little hostility is justifiable? Every race can do whatever they want, everyone is equal – they just can’t cross the race line romantically. This way of thinking is based on the shakiest of foundations. Ask someone who wouldn’t date a different race, exactly why they wouldn’t. Personal preference is one thing, but it becomes a whole different thing entirely when you react with shock and horror in the face of interracial intimacy.
My question is when does a person stop being an individual? When do they stop being that laid-back girl in university who’s working at a good life and weathering her storms, or that driven young man who wants to distance himself from any bad influences he may have yielded to before and wants to leave his name on the world in the most positive light he can – and when do they start becoming black, white, coloured, Indian, Asian? Is it when they start to touch? Is it when they see a future together? Do the bigots keep the distance between them measured and sound the alarm when a certain proximity is reached? It seems so natural for people to dismiss and condemn a relationship based on race, but in that process they dehumanize the individuals. I’m no longer a human being with the capacity to love and fulfill and affirm – I’m just a black girl. And for that reason alone, I cannot and must not date white guys. Shall I state why again? It is forbidden by society for me to date a white guy because my epidermis has more melanin in it, my hair is a different texture, I’m missing an extra bit of cartilage in my nose and my name is in a different language.
A lot has changed for me in this whole experience. I’m now of the opinion that my happiness is conditional in the eyes of many. My friends have shown me a side of them that, despite my love for them, nauseates me. The only thing that hasn’t changed really, is the fact that I want to be with him. But circumstance dictates that I’ll have to put those desires on ice for a while.
So with a bitter smile I thank you, for darkening the world for me just that bit more, for no other reason than your own cold and rigid mindset. I thank you for leaking a little bit of your acid into my eyes, so that now everything I see has a tiny tinge of red, red rage. And for leaking that same acid in the doorway, and laying your heavy hand on his shoulder, while the acid hisses it’s better this way. I thank you, because without all this, I would still be turning my eyes up to his, or burying my face in his chest, doing my best not to see the diluted venom that lay in puddles all over this place.