As our group of 2 black, 3 white and 1coloured girls sat, on a sunny afternoon this week, sipping on smoothies all scantily clad, we noticed how many black guys our white friend Marjie knew and kept rising to hug and greet. With some, her innate feminine aura of seduction came out a few times prompting my black friend Thabi to ask her if she was interested in black men. Marjie smiled naughtily and confidently announced that she was now dating the last hunk she’d hugged; tall, handsome, well spoken and seemingly intelligent. “What a catch!” she announced proudly, and proceeded to revel in the flurry of compliments we were paying her. Since we’re in a country where we’re all aiming to be accepting of mixed race couples, nobody said anything bad…except Thabi…who frowned, tisked and mumbled sarcastic remarks as she lit a cigarette, thus catching our attention. “What’s your problem!” Marjie asked, to which Thabi snidely responded, “White girls like you!”
Now, let me put some perspective here. We always have heated discussions about everything, from serious issues like the current topical threat of radioactive material Japan faces from the 3rd blast at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, to silly issues like why men leave the toilet seat up. And we even talk about the racial divide in South Africa and laugh at how people can’t just see that we are all just people. But on this day, a true reflection of what they each thought about race came out.
Thabi proceeded to explain to Marjie, initially in a joking manner that statistically the ratio of women to men in the Cape is 7 women to 1 man, but to have the few ‘total package’ black men taken by white women was worthy of a “bitch slappin’ ”. Her reasons were that it is particularly difficult for black women to get contemporary, educated, responsible, humorous AND good-looking black men who aren’t completely immersed in traditional ways of behaving and thinking.( Not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what one is after). Her reason reminded me of a show Oprah did some time ago relating to American women, but seemed to resonate here: Marjie, laughed and responded saying it wasn’t her fault black men found her attractive and easy to get on with…after all, she said, it was the black woman’s fault the black men were chasing her kind; if black women didn’t disrespect their men, pointing their fingers and doing sarcastic “Yeah! That’s right!” head movements, and stressing them about getting the drinks tab or paying for meals, asking for cash to put gas in their cars and such, they might be able to keep black men interested in them long enough for them not to switch over.
Many of my black male friends would have agreed with Marjie since many of them are interested in the ultimate score; courting a white girl! Apparently, that’s almost as good as winning the lottery, what with all the kudos the guy will get from his friends, amongst other perks. “A white woman is a prize!” says he. The justification is that the white women don’t have as much pent-up aggression, are not as outspoken or confrontational, are generally not as demanding as black women, AND, they don’t get fat.
Ofcourse, this set Thabi off, and in true black girl fashion – yes, black-woman-behaviour doesn’t only occur in the United States; it goes across borders – she dropped the jokey persona and brought her heavy debating artillery. Thabi, ripped into Marjie’s ‘kind’ by proclaiming, at the top of her voice, that she shouldn’t “get it twisted”, that black men only wanted white girls because they don’t need to work hard to get them into bed, they’re very passive and lack the ‘back-bone’ to stand up for what they believe in like the black and brave Rosa Parks did, they tolerate unacceptable behaviour and ridiculous AIDS-inviting notions like the famed “open relationship”, and they almost literally, pay to keep these men by showering them with gifts and giving them money. She punctuated her argument saying black women won’t allow a man to just ‘do his thing willy-nilly’…”We keep our men in line!”
Needless-to- say, the initially funny misunderstanding, had us all gaping in shock at how fast it had escalated to a full on attack from both. As the argument raged, the only coloured girl present, with tears rolling down her face, came between them and through controlled sobs said, “If my black dad and white mom didn’t ever meet, I wouldn’t be here. Don’t you get it, we’re all just people!” We were all stunned to silence as the realisation hit us that it honestly doesn’t matter what colour races come together, as long as they’re in love.
The fact that the coloured girl, Nina, comes from a heritage rich in history left us all very reflective. Her mother is Jewish, and was rejected by her family for marrying a black American man. Funny that, considering that Nina’s mom’s parents, actually experienced the holocaust and were part of the few lucky ones to find themselves in America as refugees. Reverse racism. Nina’s parents have been married for 30 years and are happy and madly in love. Nina’s mom came to South Africa in her early pregnancy for work-related business and bore Nina who is thus a South African born coloured. The family moved here 5 years ago. Her history prompted this blog post.
The South African Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1951 which made interracial marriages illegal and was not lifted until 1990, left in its wake, a mentality of the separate races never intermingling with regards to love. Articles like these exemplify the issues mixed race couples had to deal with: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0507/p01s03-woaf.html/(page)/1 http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Racial_segregation As young people, who weren’t even alive to experience that segregation, why are we so caught up in keeping different races apart? South Africa advocates for a “Rainbow Nation” through TV ads showing mixed race couples, through their television soap operas like ‘Isidingo’ and ‘Generations’, with the hopes of encouraging a mentality change amongst young people. But that day, I wondered, is any of it working?
The fact that blacks, Indians, and coloured, feel entitled to being racist, maybe as compensation for the racism their enslaved ancestors experienced through the enactors of the segregation laws during Apartheid and throughout history on the different continents, is really sad. How is reverse racism acceptable? It shows itself too when you get the black people who claim not to be racist but turn their nose up in disgust at the idea of even dating outside their race. What about those that are racist about mixed race couples and try to justify themselves, and as a cherry-on-the-cake, BELIEVE that they are not racist?! Check out this typical example of what I’m talking about:
How can young minds think differently and cause change to come about effectively if we have websites which promote hatred and racial division, and carry ridiculous slogans such as this: “Let our slogan be – Whites should mate only with Whites for the preservation and expansion of nature’s finest – The White Race!” http://www.stormfront.org/truth_at_last/archives/interracial.htm These disturbing sites leave one wondering intolerantly; “Who died and made you the ‘race god’? God is never going to quit His job for the likes of you, buddy!” Let us pull together to fight ignorant online bloggers who promote white supremacy even in the one pure domain of love!
But where exactly are we today with regards to interracial dating and marriage? Well, it seems the trend today is to have mixed race children. Could the suggestion that genetics plays a huge role in why white, especially foreign, women and men, want to breed ‘caramel-skinned’ babies be true? Is it why white men want the svelte black girl, with the height and feather-weight of a starved white model yearning for a muffin; because being with a black girl who epitomises his fantasy of having a black woman who has the physical attributes of a white woman is about him not wanting that baby to carry the fat gene common amongst black women? This suggestion might be true since we hardly ever see fat black girls with white men in South Africa. It’s as if they weed out the fat ones; the tubby, ‘love-handle’ bearing, hefty girls, in their quest for perfection, marry the waif, and hope to God, that she doesn’t suddenly wake up fat one day. The point is, while a white man may justify his decision to be with a black woman as simply for love, the fact that he can only identify with what is closely related to his own race, doesn’t help his argument.
We are more likely to see the black men in South Africa dating robust white girls. Culture comes into play here since my non-white male friends will often say, “A girl with junk in her trunk, AND white! Now THAT’S a bonus!” Again, such is it a supposed fact, that black comedian’s even joke about it: (Please be aware that the content contains some vulgarities sensitive viewers may not appreciate) A white male acquaintance once claimed (supposedly jokingly), that this is because the white isn’t able to make it in the dating world with her own race because of her weight, and white men don’t mind another race getting her because of it. I cringed because I thought it was so disrespectful. It turns out, according to my white male, and even female friends, this thought is a common notion, and I feel that that makes it even worse.
From Thabi and Marjie’s argument came the often heard suggestion that economics also play a huge role in the decision for a black woman to date or marry a white guy for example. It’s been suggested by many that because many skinny black girls, who hail from non-glamorous backgrounds where their families have no financial legacy to leave behind, date white men for the monetary benefits. In a country where the rate of poverty amongst non-white groups is so high, some would say, seems to be a logical suggestion. But it is also an offensive stereotype which cannot be applied to every skinny black woman in a mixed race relationship. One of my black male friends’ top priority when dating a girl is that she be white, because he says, firstly, and most importantly, the majority don’t get fat, AND secondly, they carry their own financial burdens, and more often than not, help him with his too; something, apparently, black women don’t do. Black women justify not funding a man saying this enables a man financially and only leads to heartache.
So, regarding economics, in a nutshell, the black male perception is that white women have money – whether theirs, or their daddy’s, or their gran-daddy’s or an inheritance or trust – to burn, while black women, even if they have the money, behave like misers. But it is generally a consensus that black women – if they’re not trying to behave white – generally expect the man to pay for everything; from putting credit in her phone if he expects her to SMS, MMS, or call him at any point, picking up the tab and paying for meals at dinner, (and for her friends if she’s brought them along), to putting gas in her car. And this is so because black women have been raised to expect the age-old convention of male courtship where a man has to work very hard – yes, that includes putting his financial foot forward – to prove himself and how serious he is about wanting her. In this contemporary, cosmopolitan society of Cape Town it shouldn’t matter what race one dates, because preferences are preferences and each to his own. As Comedian Russell Peters says in his hilarious show, “The World is mixing!”.
Staying stuck in the post-apartheid state does not change the fact that races are now integrated and the racial divide is fighting to pull together. So how about us, the young people, enacting the change we want to see. I conclude with this question; how do you feel about dating outside your race?