South African love – in full colour

2012-01-28 11:00

It wasn’t his blackness that first struck me, although I do think dark is beautiful. And the surprise kiss a few minutes after we met was underwhelming (the smooching has improved vastly).

Rather, it was the mischief in his eyes that I loved at first sight and the way he could apply “damsel in distress” ironically.

The rest followed so naturally that we haven’t bothered to commit our easy-going involvement to definition.

During the ANC’s centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein recently, we raised a glass to the first year of our “friendship of a special type”.

“So this is what we struggled for over the past 100 years,” a friend at our table quipped.

It was said in jest, but perhaps love across racial lines is one of the frontiers that a century of struggle hasn’t destroyed completely. At least that is if the reaction this week to the poster by the DA Students’ Organisation (Daso) is anything to go by.

It ranged from “so what” to utter shock and downright (racist) disapproval.

The poster shows a picture of a naked white guy and a black girl embracing, with the phrase “In OUR future, you wouldn’t look twice” printed underneath.

The poster – part of an SRC elections campaign – was a brilliant marketing ploy. Various parodies went viral and the image was widely discussed.

Daso managed to strike the same racial chord ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema so often does – except without landing in hot water or in court.

The poster might not win the DA the next election, but it has put Daso on the map.

Yet it didn’t appeal to me.

Then again, thirtysomethings are probably not the ­target market.
 
In fact, I thought the DA kids were patronising. In 2012, do they really think that we should be shocked into thinking about the topic? As if we haven’t been doing so since the passing of the Immorality Act in 1957.

Many people said it reminded them of a 1990s United Colours of Benetton ad – topical then, but by now a bit, well, dull.

Maybe the image wouldn’t have elicited the same storm if it had been on a Benetton or fragrance ad.

But this DA-related organisation has touched us on our political love studios.

Here is a party politicising the intimate personal in the same way the Immorality Act did back then.

In the circles my friend and I move in, there haven’t been openly negative racial comments on our special friendship, although I have been mistaken for a foreigner.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people in more serious relationships, or with children, get more abuse.

The child of a mixed-race foreign couple living in South Africa told me that people still look twice at their family in shopping malls, but they don’t mind so much when they realise the family isn’t local. (Oh, and she loved the Daso poster and said she’d vote DA if she could.)

It seems South Africans cannot quite fathom that our fellows can commit interracial love.

Labels like “coconut” are often applied to black people dating whites, while some white people regard whites who date blacks as “sellouts” or dating “down”.

A black friend with a white husband once told me someone mistook her for a prostitute.

Then there’s also the potential of political baggage coming between partners.

More innocently, some friends have even ventured to ask what sex across racial lines is like.

Indeed, there is some adventure to be had in diversity – like telling your partner she glows in the dark or blaming your black culture when you’re late for a date (even if it really was the single malt’s fault).

It seems many South Africans still live with internalised versions of the oppressive Immorality Act 26 years after it’s been repealed.

Why can’t we allow our compatriots to love each other in peace?
 
It’s way more fun than war.

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