On July 11, 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple who had just married, were sharing a peaceful sleep in each other’s arms when their home was invaded by three armed police officers. The couple was arrested and emotionally and morally abused. The reason was one – they had dared to love beyond “race” and had exchanged wedding to remain faithful to each other for the rest of their lives.
The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 was cancelled 32 years ago in 1985. While nowadays interracial marriages are legal, they stir up highly controversial reactions in South Africa. People will go as far as to comment about the interracial couple’s taste, preferences, sex life and even kids. Interracial couples may receive rude questions that intrude their privacy, such as “What do your parents think about it?” “What made you make such decision?” The sad aspect is that people does not acknowledge the inconsiderate nature of their questions.
“It shouldn’t be a thing, people should see interracial relationships as a normal thing, I always cringe when people don’t get this, we are just real about our feelings and we are in love” says Lungi Zakwe, 32, who is in relationship with William Lohrmann, 32. Lohrmann, born to English father and Afrikaans mother, grew up in Johannesburg suburbia, and worked at CAMCO Clean Energy as the manager of African projects.
One of the greatest challenges you may face as an interracial couple is presenting your significant other to your parents who have racial bias. To stay politically correct and not to be labeled as a racist, people support the concept of interracial relationships, but when the latter relates to their children, their unconscious bias may turn into aggressive disapproval.
Hopefully, many families do not show racial attitudes, and support their child’s choice. Cassarica Nadas and Gareth Mays, an interracial couple was in a long-distance online relationship when Mays moved to Cape Town for work in 2013. Nadas eventually moved to Cape Town in September 2014. They now live together in Johannesburg. “Cultural differences aren’t a major focus in my family. Essentially Cassie’s and my interests and habits were similar already. My parents were positive. Cassie is my sweetheart and probably more favored by my parents than me,” says Mays.
A number of books help interracial couples in the challenging process of informing family and friends about their choice.
You should pretend to like foreign cuisine and food that your future mother-in-law has cooked. While meeting their parents, you should follow common etiquette rules and exclude controversial topics of “race”, finances, religion and sex. Safe topics include sports, weather, travelling, cuisine, movies, music, etc. If you can allow some sophistication, then discussing art, science, economics and politics without engaging in an argumentative debate may help you build perfect rapport. Did we mention you should NOT discuss “race”?
Communication is Key
To minimize the discomfort you may feel as an “interracial” couple, you should become more self-aware and socially conscious. To protect your mental and emotional well-being, you should not take things personally in recurring social situations, such as people staring at you in the street. You may remind yourself that many couples get the same attention, and certain people have habits to always judge. Their attention does not mean they disapprove your interracial union.
If your parents don’t have friends of a different culture, you should inform them in advance about your relationship. An honest conversation with family and friends will spare you and your significant other from an uncomfortable first encounter.
If your family and friends still don’t share your values, choice and attitude towards interracial dating, or if they treat your partner with disrespect, you should set boundaries to protect your connection. Your partner does not deserve disrespect and harassing comments by your parents and friends. Protect them by demanding respect for them. Stick to your principles and be loyal to the person you are planning to spend your forever with.
Online Dating and its problems
Racial segregation exists even in online dating sites. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley found that black members of the same site attempted to date whites and were ten times more likely to contact white women rather than black women.
“When the constraints of segregation are lifted by technology, what do people do? They don’t act all that differently. Segregation remains a state of mind as much as it is a physical reality,” says Gerald Mendelsohn, PhD, one of the professors who worked on the study.
The present state of South Africa is still associated with difficulty to have a smooth dating experience and/or relationship with a person of another “race”. Hopefully, many prestigious websites have advanced filters that promote meeting singles beyond their “race”.
Discrimination and related inequalities challenge interracial couples to build the foundation of love in peace. Though many “interracial” couples are still exposed to social judgment on a daily basis, love should be strong enough to cross the color line.