This last week has had my heart feel a little heavier. I know living in a mixed race family (dual heritage when we are feeling posh) race is not an invisible issue, but this last week was the first time we have ever been asked to tick a box for our kids. Jenny’s school enrollment forms asked was she:
‘Black/ Africa’ ‘White’ ‘Coloured’ ‘Indian/ Asian’ or ‘Not Applicable’
It makes me sad that in this day and age the question is still asked. I understand that with a horrid history of racism/ apartheid it is good to monitor to ensure that all people are being treated fairly, but it still stuck in my throat a little. The options were so few. Many will consider our kids ‘coloured’ because of their skin colour – but coloured in South Africa is a whole heritage and culture that we are not part of. If they were in America they would be considered black, in Malawi called white as they are paler than most people! To sum up the richness of their heritage with so limited options makes my heart sore. If you want to know about my daughter here are some boxes I will gladly tick:
- Is she kind – most of the time
- Is she naughty – quite a lot
- Is she hilariously funny – always
- Is she loving – definitely
- Is she quirky – of course
- Does she love unicorns, princess stuff and everything sparkly (& her little brother) – with a fierce passion
- Is she fearfully and wonderfully made – absolutely
One of my favourite Psalm tells me that she is fearfully and wonderfully made – God did a really great job creating her!
Psalm 139: 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
We live in a society that is so focused on looks and as well as monitoring fairness and rights – but it is limiting, even if well intended (In Ireland we monitor religion so each country has its own tick the box system). But I don’t want that for my kids and I don’t want that for the way they treat and judge others.
I think next time I have to play tick the box I will choose….
option 5- fearfully and wonderfully made!
In less than two weeks I will be taking my two kids to visit my home city, Belfast, for the first time. I’m excited for them to meet family and friends, for them to experience a real winter instead of a wet and windy Cape Town Winter. But, if I’m honest, a little part of me is little anxious. I haven’t been home in 5 ½ years and I haven’t lived there 14 years but it is not me I’m anxious for but for my kids. I want them to love it, but honestly reading news articles about racism in Northern Ireland makes my heart beat a little harder. (I know, I know, you shouldn’t base how you view a place based on what makes the newspaper).
Like every Mom I only want to expose my kids to good things, to lovely people but you cannot control everything or keep them in a bubble. In Cape Town we have never had people comment anything negative about the kids (at least that we could hear). Yes, people look, one even walked into a parking meter while staring. But the only comments we get are that they are such cute or beautiful kids – in Cape Town folk love to comment on kids so they hear this a lot. In the whole time hubby and I have been together no one has said anything negative to us (I’m sure they thought it, but they have not been silly enough to say to us) – the sum total of ‘insults’ we have had shouted at us in the street was ‘Top Deck’ (a chocolate bar that had both milk and white chocolate in it).
I am by nature, sin nature that is, a worrywart so I have to stop myself from letting my mind get carried away with something that may never happen. We will be home for such a short time the likelihood of running into a verbose idiot is not that high – and if we do, well the words of one person cannot undo all the heaps of lovely words the kids get from our friends, family and all the strangers in Cape Town. So when this little anxiety pops into my head I find myself having to purposely squash it and turn it over to God.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:25-27)
I laugh a bit at myself that I have no problem living in a mixed race family in South Africa but am anxious about home.
There are no surprises for God and I trust Him.
Help me, Lord, to squash worrywart thoughts of things that may never happen.
It always surprises me how free people are to comment in others, especially strangers. We are a mixed race family – not strange for us, but so we were reminded this past weekend, still strange for South Africa. Over the years we have kind of gotten used to the odd looks, honestly hubby notices them more than I do. But now that we have kids I notice it more. I suppose in the past people may not have know for sure that we were married – maybe they thought we were dating or just colleagues or something. By now with two cute kids in the mix the amount of double takes has dramatically increased. (By the way we haven’t settled on the term mixed race yet – I like dual heritage – it sounds posher!)
When Jenny was born I had the odd person, usually a stranger (and usually a Pick N Pay staff member!) ask if she was adopted. My standard answers is ‘No, She is homemade!’ – that is usually good for a few blushes! I haven’t been asked in a long time about Jenny and so far no one has asked me about Liam (at least not directly). But this weekend for the first time it was hubby that was quizzed. He was stopped by two ladies who asked did he steal the baby! In some ways it is funny, but is also really sad that we are such a curiosity.
I understand why race is an issue – for too long people have been treated so badly and unfairly just for the colour of their skin, for their culture and heritage. It is hard to get over it and let it go, especially when it still happens, whether consciously or unconsciously. I hope for my kids that they will embrace the fact that they are a mixture of Ireland and Malawi, but that people would be curious to know them as people, not just by how they look. I’m praying that our kids will not be defined and limited by their colour or their parents’ – instead their talents, skills, humanity, humour, kindness and position in Christ will define them, not other people’s perceptions and biases.
Galatians 3.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
There is neither Malawian nor Irish, neither black nor white, nor is their male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus …