"My mixed-race children are not ambassadors for anti-racism"


The events of the past few weeks have spurred a shift in South Africa, from tight smiles and blank faces at work and dinner tables, to voices now being raised very loudly against racism, and – as is inevitable and still somehow shocking – for it.

One particular act of anti-racism has me quite concerned though.

I have in the past few weeks seen pictures of interracial couples and their mixed-race children, or white families and adopted black children, circulated as 'proof' that love conquers all. That some sort of interracial utopia exists when we love and have sex across the colour line and birth biracial children.

It's a dangerously naive sentiment, and places responsibility on tiny shoulders that do not ask for such, nor need it thrust it upon them.

My babies are not the poster children for, nor the ambassadors of, anti-racism.

They did not ask for that responsibility and in a world that often throws vitriol their way, they should not have to bear it. It is wrong to trot out mixed-race children to say, "See our lovely mixed-race family – we have overcome racism." Because it does not mean we have.

Have we forgotten that an entire population group in this country exists mostly because of interracial sex (actually, rape in so many cases), and has been punished for it?

It makes no sense to say that love across the colour line breaks down racism, when we know that sexism and misogyny still exist even as we choose and love partners from another gender.

Being married to a man does not necessarily mean that your children are proof of his commitment to feminism, nor that he is feminist, and we all know by now that the saying, "...But I have black/gay/women/transgender friends..." is simply insulting tokenism.

To say the same about children and spouses is no different.

At this point I'm sure many parents of mixed-race or black children are now angry at me, because I've said their children are tokens. I'm not. I'm asking you to ask how your children will save the world from racism when they're just kids.

They all want to be superheroes, wear the cape and brandish the lightsaber, but there is no costume for the Anti-racism Avengers, and if it's just the skin they're in, it's not enough when it covers tiny fragile bodies and easily hurt hearts.

I'd like for our kids to be children for as long as possible, to pretend they're fighting off imaginary aliens and improbable villains rather than a very real and very dangerous threat – like a trigger-happy racist policeman or neighbourhood watch guy who could kill them.

It's safe to say that their racial make-up will also invite responses ranging from the simple curiosity of other children, to the more insidious comments from even the most liberal of adults. And sometimes, even their parents and close family.

Now I've made you really angry. How dare I say that you can be racist towards your own children? I say it because I've seen it happen to my own children, and because falling in love with someone from another race does not erase our races and our experiences as a result of them.

We do not suddenly become fully politically conscious, we're not immune to having absorbed some of the prejudice around us, and then repeating it. Again, like a husband may not recognise all sexism aimed at women, so being in an interracial family does not mean we suddenly understand or even recognise all racism. Or that our adult friends and family will.

We live vicariously, our children the living breathing embodiments of our hopes and dreams, and for so many of us those dreams include an equal world that will see their souls before their skin.

But WE, the grown-ups, have to fight for that. Those delicate small-shouldered sprites must not be foot soldiers marching before us bearing banners proclaiming our anti-racism – not when foot soldiers are the first casualties in any war.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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