Till race do us part

The personal is the political. When I started going out with my wife, Nontethelelo Thobeka maZondi Nondaba,I knew the two of us were making a potent political choice that would shift both our statuses within society in dramatic ways. We entered unfamiliar territory ,moving through an atmosphere deep in history and conflicting meanings, yet powerfully aware of the ability to remake history by our choices driven by intense desire. I am a white man, she is a black women. Needless to say these are unfamiliar waters in our society.Very few people go into multi racial relationships, because few are prepared for the potential fallout. I went in with an attitude of daring imagination. I had indeed considered that I might lose a lot but the will to be free to express my desires was more potent than any fear I had.

I wanted to escape the inertia of white existence in South Africa. The artificiality of its notions, and the clichés that come with being white. I wanted to escape the implicit limitations of white existence in a continent containing pluralistic meanings. I listened to maskanda and Mzekezeke and Fela Analupo Kuti as a teenager. I worshipped the TV screen in awe on hands and knees when Simphiwe Dana appeared for the first time. I went and played cricket in dusty yards with my peers in the location. I looked up to Motsapi and Rampolokeng as poetic models. I tasted a world potent and beautiful and vividly alive, though filled with intense pain. I wanted as a human being to experience reality. To me it seemed natural to want to be with anyone. It was not just a fetish, but having grown up around black people it seemed and still seems implausible that we still set cultural limitations when it comes to dating. We like to think of ourselves as a cosmopolitan society, but at times when we have to shift our cultural paradigms for the sake of that cosmopolitanism bigotry abides.

All these things were the background to my relationship with Nontethelelo. I was attempting to become a wandering preacher at the time I met her. A cashier at a Spar till, the victim of an angry impatient white man’s tirade when his card wouldn’t go through. I felt sorry for this lady with deep eyes and full body and strong hands, and kept returning to her till in subsequent weeks. Soon I got her phone number. I began to visit her paralysed diabetic mother in Swayimane. After her mother passed on, i continued visiting her. I eventually ended up staying with her ,until our marriage in April 2010.

At no stage in my relationship was I half hearted. When we went into public spaces ,we went there boldly. If people were unhappy, so be it ,we are responsible for our own happiness. From black people we have had a very good reception. For being a white man who made his home among the people ,and for being the brother in law to taxi drivers, I earned the title ” sibali”.

There is always a sense of euphoria when people see us together. It is almost as if faith is restored in our not so credible society.  At our wedding, the convoy was met with wild cheers by people as we neared the hall. If we go into the city together though, more people do stare at us and unfortunately those stare are not always beaming with approval. My response is to stare right back, grinning and laughing through my eyes. This is the key to thriving in a multi racial relationship-you must believe in your choices. You must be strong. You must be prepared for some hate, and brush it off your shoulder calmly and undeterred. If people confront me about my marriage, I am not apologetic-I confront them back. MaZondi is my wife-I have nothing to apologise to any person or ideology for that fact.White people have had a very muted reaction. After I was married, perhaps four people from the community congratulated me. And unfortunately this has resulted in me having to cut off a lot of ties with some member of my the white community. The silence itself is indeed disconcerting.

 No one comes out openly and says, I don’t like multiracial relationships, but you sense a massive unease amongst white people about this subject. There are some white people who used to talk to me and now won’t even greet me-this means nothing to me. It is their own choice but certainly if they are influencing their kids with such bigotry ideas then certainly we are in a lot of trouble as a society. Are we really willing breed another generation that articulates nonracialim and then abandons?

 Perhaps they are afraid of their own children falling in love with black people. Many white people who have had a relationship with a black person break it off out of fear and try to hide all trace of it. I have heard many sad stories like this ,but still I affirm,it is your own choice as a human being-will you live free and risk losing status, or will you live in fear as a puppet of peoples prejudices and agendas? It is sometimes disturbing, the way some white people are in fear of black people, and all the connotations of blackness. It is alarming sometimes to live in a rural community like I do ,and see people interacting all the time, but not really communicating. I am the only white person who can drive past people cutting cane and get shouts of happy greeting, and whom all the schoolchildren greet as I pass them. We must move away from a tradition of judging people by their status or class or even race color. Just because you see what a person looks like does not mean you know what they are A person is a person, and deserves respect and empathy. It is critical for the future of white people in this country to get out of the laager mentality and unpatronisingly dialogue with the rest of the country.

People who are willing to get into multiracial relationships are few and far between. we are a minority, but all things begin quietly. People are still tentative ,afraid of breaching boundaries. Slowly these distinctions will weaken. Human culture lives not by isolation, but by dialogue with other cultures. A process of growth and adaptation. Those who are willing to take those chances set a president. Let this revolution come, now more than over we need a culture of acceptance that is not only transcribed in our statutes but that we as people can fully manifest in all areas including love, without having to fell any form of discomfort.

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