It has been 20 years since the end of the white minority rule in South Africa. What many people don’t discuss is how the end of apartheid has changed the relationships between black and white people when it comes to marriage and dating.
During apartheid interracial relationships were banned in South Africa, and even though South African journalist Mpho Lakaje, met the white woman who would be his wife, he still felt opposition. His childhood friends from Soweto said they wouldn’t dare date someone who wasn’t Zulu, let alone white. Also, his girlfriend’s family didn’t feel he was good enough for her.
In 2007 I met Daniela Casetti-Bowen, who had come from Chile to study tourism in South Africa. We became friends and later started dating. Two years later, against her family’s will, we moved in together.
Daniela and I had to take a conscious decision to disregard those opposed to our relationship.
Most of my relatives told me it did not matter to them whether my partner was black or white, South African or not.
While I was a bit shocked by their open-mindedness, I also saw their actions as a demonstration of their authentic commitment to Mr Mandela’s dream of a Rainbow Nation.
But post-honeymoon, reality hit and we started experiencing challenges that come with inter-racial relationships. Some of Daniela’s relatives discouraged us from starting a family.
They said mixed-race children always had a tough upbringing because they do not have an identity.
Again, we ignored this advice and went on to have a baby, Mpho Jr.
Interestingly, relations between myself and Daniela’s family have improved tremendously in recent years.
Lakaje says that even though there was resistance at first, he feels that he had it better than most of his friends in interracial relationships. He notes that one friend in particular, Jake, whose mother is white and his father is an African-American, born and raised in West Virginia, is now married to a black woman from Soweto.
“At times somebody would refer me as a white person. There are times I would say: ‘Wait a second, I’m black’,” Jake says.
He says they get “the looks” when walking through the shopping centre with his wife but he is not too worried about it.
“This racial classification is very engraved,” he says. “It’s like in the psyche of South Africans.”
What’s interesting to note, is that Lakaje realizes that even though things have changed in South Africa, there are still remnants of old thinking.