“People are still looking at us,” my husband said to me as we walked through a Cape Town shopping center yesterday.
“Yep,” I replied. “I noticed, as well.”
Today marks 14 years since I married a black man.
Related post: I’m a White Girl from Michigan, and I’m #GoingThere
My South African husband and I lived in his home country for the first eight and a half years of our interracial marriage and eventually got used to people looking at us as one of the uncommon mixed race couples in the post-apartheid nation.
(I talked about the experience in my podcast interview with Melanie Dale.)
After living in the States for the past five and a half years, apparently we’ve both forgotten what it feels like to be observed like a rare exhibit in a museum while walking through the parking lot or grocery store.
I thought about our experience recently when I read Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, and again while watching the movie, A United Kingdom – the true story of the king of Botswana falling in love with and marrying a white European woman.
Though my husband has never been to Botswana, he grew up within miles of its border and his culture and home language, the Batswana people who speak SeTswana, derive from that neighboring nation.
If we had lived during that era, could that have been us?
Would I have stood my ground as a white woman living in Botswana, clearly unwanted, unliked, and unwelcomed by the local people?
Would I have responded with love and determination the same way the king’s wife did in the movie’s storyline?
If my husband and I had met during apartheid, would we have broken the South African law at the time for the sake of our relationship?
Would our children have had a similar experience as Trevor Noah, growing up as mixed race children to one white parent and one black parent?
Would we have had to hide them inside, the way it wasn’t safe for Trevor Noah to be seen outside growing up?
Order Born a Crime here
Related post: Should parents have children of a different skin color?
I wonder about these questions sometimes. Other times I don’t think twice about it.
We were at my mother-in-law’s house in Cape Town for over a week before it occurred to me that I’m the only white person living in a house full of seven people.
This is my family.
People may look at us with raised eyebrows, with questions formed in the lines on their foreheads, with curiosity peeking from the corners of their eyes . . . and that’s okay.
Maybe some will see beyond the color of our skin to the ties that bind us – the same image we bear from our shared Creator and the shed blood of His Son for our redemption.
Today also marks seven years since I left my husband standing alone in the Cape Town airport on Father’s Day and took our kids across the Atlantic – the opening scene I share in my memoir, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging:
Read more about our international love story and interracial marriage here.
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