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Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

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Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My RaceBigotry is Not the Preserve of White People

My name is Sheila. I am 31 years with a fantastic job as a sales officer for a loan company. I married to Frank who is 35 and we have three beautiful children (Frank Jr, Linda and Rose). So what is remarkable about my life…nothing apart from the fact that I am one of the biggest critics of my own race. You see I am originally from Nigeria. I came to the USA when I was six so I don’t remember much about my old life. However, my parents worked very hard to ensure that we do not forget “where we came from”. We speak Yoruba at home and I am fluent. I know how to make Yoruba dishes and when I am going to a wedding, you could not tell whether I have just landed from Nigeria or have live here for over a quarter of a century.

 

That would not be a problem apart from the fact that Frank has a mixed ancestry of German and Swedish. In other words, he is white: a grave crime in my parent’s view. Ironically my mother is a retired social worker who was recognized for her “humility, dedication and compassion”. That only extends to her immediate clients and other black people. If you are white; Asian; (she calls all Asians “Indians” regardless of whether they are Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Pakistani) or any other color; all bets are off. She has no problem insulting you to your face. Worse still, if you are mixed race; the word “mongrel” will not fail to pass her lips when talking to you or about you. If you have done something really nice, she might grace you with a “half-caste” but never, ever mixed race.

Mixed Race: A Bigot for a Mother

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

My mother used to say that there is a reason why God created different parts of the world and put different creatures there. Apparently he wanted us to be different and separate, not this random mixture of multiculturalism. She would make any Nazi happy with her sentiments on miscegenation. Of course, my mum conveniently forgot that she had left her diverse Nigerian culture of many tribes to come to the USA which is an even wider melting pot. When I confronted her on that she would smile at me and say “but that is very different my dear daughter. We were trying to get a better life for you”. She took pride in the fact that we all spoke Yoruba and that she had (until me) been able to keep us away from white girls and guys. This is not an easy task when you have six boys and three girls.

 

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You can then imagine her shock when I brought home this 6’2 guy with penetrating blue eyes and silver blonde hair. For the first time in her life, my mum was completely speechless. Later on she confessed to me that she could not decide whether to cry or laugh. All she could do was control her emotions in the face of this gentle giant that looked as if he might do quite a bit of damage if he wanted. My mother then took on her social work role, very solicitous and seemingly helpful. She was instead accessing Frank for all the faults that she would remonstrate against me later on. After patronizing him by speaking very slowly in a very thick Nigerian accent (my mother is a fluent English speaker and has a Mid-Western accent so I knew that she was playing games); mum saw him off. As soon as he left, the real drama started.

Mixed Race: The Recriminations, Pleadings and Remonstrations

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

“How could you do this to us?” My mother kept repeating this phrase as if it were a mantra. She would punctuate her movements around the room by placing her hands on her head, a gesture that was used in mourning. Now it was my turn to get shocked and speechless. I knew she would react badly, but surely not this badly? She kept taking it up a notch and crying. My father who tends to follow whatever mum says for a quiet life muttered discontentedly “Shilllaaa my daughter. You’ve brought shame to the family”. All my attempts to explain or console were rebuffed with determined unity. My siblings were summoned to sit in judgement. They all kept quiet and I was happy. I knew that was as far as they were going to go in terms of supporting me. My mum was on the warpath and we all know what she is like when she gets into one of her “moods”.

 

My mother misjudged me. She imagined that she had done sufficient damage to the relationship that it would not last. It could not possible last, could it? I proved her wrong and in the most brutal way. What she did not realize was that I had been going steady with Frank since I first lay eyes on him during my fresher’s ball at university. That particular train had left long, long time ago. We were now talking about serious issues like marriage. I knew that Frank would get a negative reception at home so I never really told them anything. I would make vague phrases about dating and my mother would look up inquisitively behind her thick glasses, hoping for more concrete information. I knew that she was hoping that I was about to settle down with a good Nigerian boy, hopefully from the Yoruba culture. If he was a medical doctor like my father, that would be the perfect arrangement.

 

Can you imagine her fury that I had put my lot in with a white architect from Kansas? Frank’s parents had been shocked at first when he brought home his girl. They knew she was “black” but not that black. I was wearing my traditional costume, just to show them that I would always be an African woman no matter what happened between me and Frank. They got used to me with time, particularly when they saw that I could dress “Western” when the fancy took me. It was my parents who were the last huddle. Frank had proposed and I had said yes without hesitation. Now I wanted to introduce him before our formal engagement.

 

Mixed Race: A Family Cold War Begins

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

I would like to be able to tell you that things improved, that my mother accepted my choice and we came to an understanding. That never happened. My mother never came to my wedding. Neither my dad, but at least he sent me a heartfelt letter apologizing but he did not want to make his wife feel as if she was not being supported. All my siblings came to the wedding and reception but they will never own up to it. We had to confuse the dates so that my mother would not be suspicious about their simultaneous absence on a Saturday. My side of the aisle only had friends and my siblings. Meanwhile Franks entire clan, including people from Germany and Sweden were there in full force.

 

I felt isolated in some ways but my husband is such a wonderful man that he never fails to make me feel protected whatever the threat is, even my own mother. I thought my mother would thaw at the birth of my first child. She did not. The second and third came but with no change. There was not a word…not even a threat. My siblings said that she had forbidden them to mention my name in her presence. I was “dead to her”. It does hurt because I actually used to get on so well with my mum. However, I was never going to give up Frank at the altar of her silly bigotry. If only she would take the time to know him; my mother would realize that I could never have chosen a better husband in every sense of the world. Frank is quite simply perfect for me and I mean that very seriously.

 

Mixed Race: A Prejudiced Minority Community

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

Mixed Race: Shunned for Dating Outside My Race

I remember when someone was telling me some nonsense that African Americans cannot be racists because they are not in a dominant position. What a load of bull? Africans can be even more bigoted than your average Klan member. It is just that we are considered to be so vulnerable that nobody really pays attention when we raise voices against something. It is only when you are faced with the personal consequences of bigotry that you realize that it is not just “White” people that can be complicated in this area.

 

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We seem to be particularly obsessed with the notion that the white man will wipe us out if we breed children with him. That is why mixed children find it so hard to belong in either culture. I know that my own children are neither fully accepted by black and white culture. They are that ambiguous mix that speaks of the diversity of human beings. Linda in particular has taken on the very white side in terms of her looks. I get these puzzled stairs when we are walking alone until they see the rest of the kids. I know that they imagine I must have kidnapped a white kid. The wonders of this world never cease to amaze and appall in equal measure.

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