In­ter­ra­cial mar­riages

When par­ents are from dif­fer­ent racial, cul­tural or re­li­gious back­grounds, rais­ing chil­dren can come with chal­lenges. Three cou­ples share their ex­pe­ri­ences with Pearl Rantsekeng

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

WHILE IN­TER­RA­CIAL RE­LA­TION­SHIPS have be­come a lot more com­mon­place in our rain­bow na­tion than ever be­fore, in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples still face some hur­dles.

No one knows this bet­ter than Cathy (30) and Joe Muthee (33) from Bed­ford­view.

Cathy, a stay-at-home mom and pi­ano teacher, is a daugh­ter of a white farmer from Kwazulu-natal, while Joe, an en­tre­pre­neur, is an African man of Kenyan ori­gin who moved to South Africa as a child.

The two met through a mu­tual friend while at­tend­ing the same church, and Cathy ad­mits that the fact that Joe was black ini­tially pre­vented her from see­ing him as a po­ten­tial part­ner, even though Joe was al­ways in­volved in their so­cial group and at events.

“It’s only when we started spend­ing time to­gether, in the church en­vi­ron­ment, that I got to know him bet­ter. Af­ter my 21st birth­day he de­cided to take mat­ters into his own hands,” says Cathy.

Joe says he knew Cathy was the one for him, but re­alised he would need to get her par­ents’ con­sent for their re­la­tion­ship to stand any chance.

Joe picked up the phone to Cathy’s dad and asked if he could drive down to see him in KZN. A whole group of friends spent the week­end on the farm so the fam­ily could get to know Joe.

“It wasn’t easy. My fam­ily was just not ready for this kind of re­la­tion­ship. Some fam­ily flat-out re­fused to ac­cept my re­la­tion­ship with Joe,” says Cathy. “My dad, on the other hand, as much as it was hard for him to ac­cept, told me that it wasn’t worth los­ing a daugh­ter over some­thing like this.

“He wanted to know why I hadn’t kept him and my mom up to date about my re­la­tion­ship with Joe and I ex­plained to him that I was afraid of be­ing re­jected,” she re­calls.

Now, says Cathy, seven and a half years later, the cou­ple are hap­pily mar­ried and have been blessed with two beau­ti­ful chil­dren, Daniel (4) and Vic­to­ria (2).

The cou­ple says they’re not tra­di­tion­al­ists and in rais­ing their chil­dren have de­cided to do what works for them.

“It’s not like I grew up in Kenya and have cer­tain things that I did that my kids have to do. We are rais­ing our chil­dren the Chris­tian way and we try and in­stil in

them that it doesn’t mat­ter what you look like on the out­side but it’s the in­side that mat­ters,” says Joe.

Cathy says, even af­ter all this time, there are still peo­ple who don’t ap­prove of their re­la­tion­ship. But, she adds, she loves her mixed fam­ily and wouldn’t trade it for any­thing.

GET­TING AP­PROVAL

Get­ting their fam­i­lies on board is the one thing most in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples re­port that they must go through, mostly with trep­i­da­tion and worry.

Take char­tered ac­coun­tants Si­mon and Zeenat Wormald from Greenside in Jo­han­nes­burg, who met at work and have been to­gether since 2011.

“Some­times peo­ple have a ten­dency to go for part­ners who are the same race or cul­ture as them be­cause they feel those part­ners should be a bet­ter fit. But at the end of the day your emo­tional con­nec­tion is what truly mat­ters. Zeenat and I were a bizarre match on pa­per, but we had an in­cred­i­ble emo­tional con­nec­tion,” says Si­mon.

Si­mon and Zeenat met while serv­ing their ar­ti­cles at Ernst & Young in Cape Town. But theirs cer­tainly wasn’t love at first sight. “It’s not like I was look­ing all sexy! I was al­ways mod­estly dressed in my long skirts and dresses and scarf,” she chuck­les.

Zeenat re­calls how when they first got to­gether nei­ther of them thought the re­la­tion­ship would last longer than a few weeks or months. “We were just so dif­fer­ent. Cer­tainly nei­ther of us thought we were long-term prospects and def­i­nitely not mar­riage ma­te­rial. But the longer our re­la­tion­ship went on, the stronger our feel­ings grew. Some­how the dif­fer­ences seemed fewer and fewer,” she says.

“Work­ing to­gether on a project at the firm al­lowed us to get to know each other bet­ter,” says Si­mon.

Si­mon says dat­ing Zeenat helped him to be more open-minded. “With each day I’ve come to re­alise that if you chal­lenge your­self to look at things dif­fer­ently be­cause you can see that your wife sees things dif­fer­ently there is al­ways so much more to learn,” says Si­mon.

Zeenat says she was wor­ried about telling her fam­ily about Si­mon. But in ret­ro­spect, she ad­vises hon­esty. “It took me about six months but, in hind­sight, I didn’t re­alise that leav­ing them to be the last to find out wasn’t go­ing to make their re­ac­tion any bet­ter. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard as I’d ex­pected, ei­ther. I guess I needed to get over my own pre­con­cep­tions of how they would take it. When I grew up there weren’t sim­i­lar types of re­la­tion­ships around me and it felt as though mine wasn’t nor­mal and would be frowned upon,” she ex­plains.

Zeenat says mar­ry­ing into a fam­ily that has a dif­fer­ent back­ground and cul­ture from her taught her that life is about give and take.

“Of course you are not go­ing to aban­don your be­liefs and val­ues, but you be­come more open to new and dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions,” she ex­plains.

Just like Cathy and Joe, Si­mon and Zeenat agree that most of the time peo­ple still tend to pref­er­en­tially se­lect part­ners that are of the same race, re­li­gion or cul­ture.

The cou­ple mar­ried in 2014 and have been blessed with a beau­ti­ful baby boy Rayaan (1) who will be raised Mus­lim like his par­ents.

Chil­dren from in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships get to ben­e­fit from be­ing ex­posed to both the par­ents’ cul­tures, some­thing most in­ter­ra­cial fam­i­lies know very well.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask us if we aren’t wor­ried that Rayaaan will grow up con­fused when our cul­tures are so dif­fer­ent,” Si­mon re­counts.

“But we think this is a con­ser­va­tive view as both cul­tures have loads to of­fer. It would be a shame if Rayaan were to lose any of it.

“We want him to grow up with close re­la­tions with both fam­i­lies. As much as it is im­por­tant for him to un­der­stand our val­ues as a fam­ily, we also want him to have a wide ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” adds Si­mon. HAN­DLING THE STARES Ju­dice New­ton (29) from Linden is mar­ried to Lloyd New­ton (35), owner of the Sa­tori Restau­rant. She is An­golan and he is South African. She says even to­day peo­ple are still sur­prised to see them. “Peo­ple still stop and stare or give you that look of dis­ap­proval even to this day,” she says.

Ju­dice met Lloyd through her cousins, with whom he was friends. “They in­vited me to their home for a Thanks­giv­ing lunch for the fam­ily, and I be­came fam­ily,” he adds amid laugh­ter.

Un­for­tu­nately, in the be­gin­ning the cou­ple had to deal with re­jec­tion from both sets of par­ents. Lloyd says Ju­dice’s par­ents, es­pe­cially her mom, at first had to deal with her anger at white peo­ple in gen­eral for how the Por­tuguese had treated black peo­ple in their colonies. Mean­while, Ju­dice had to deal with Lloyd’s dad, who is English and based in the UK, who couldn’t see past her skin colour. “We had to be strong and knew that for our re­la­tion­ship to work we had to stand our ground. Luck­ily for us, both sides of the par­ents have even­tu­ally come round, but we’ve had to ex­clude other fam­ily mem­bers from our lives,” ex­plains Lloyd.

The cou­ple has been blessed with two chil­dren, Gabriela (7) and Nathalie (1).

They say they’ve de­cided to take cer­tain things from each cul­ture and cre­ate their own new fam­ily cul­ture. “What I love about Ju­dice’s fam­ily is how in­clu­sive they are and how the cousins do things to­gether. It’s a warm and lov­ing fam­ily,” says Lloyd. YB

Si­mon and Zeenat Wormald with their son Rayaan

Cathy and Joe Muthee and their chil­dren, Daniel and Vic­to­ria

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