Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by colour!
“I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being–neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”
― Malcolm X
For the longest time I have always been fascinated and intrigued by mixed race/inter-racial couples. In a world that has been marred by racial; cultural and even ethnic segregation, I found that cross-cultural and interracial couples offered an interesting way to view the world. In my mind, these kind of couples served almost as a soothing balm in a world where much hurt, pain, hatred and even fear had played a part in damaging relationships between man and his fellow brother. To me, they seemed to show that there’s still hope for a united mankind.
So this brings me to my story.
Now before I even begin telling it to you, I want to assure you that this is not going to be some soppy, love-sick story blog but rather it serves as the backdrop from which I am going to share my perspective with you. These observations are said from my personal point of view – which basically means that you might not agree with me but that’s okay. My purpose in writing this is just to get you to think a little (or a lot.)
So here goes:
"In a world that has been marred by racial; cultural and even ethnic segregation, I found that cross-cultural and interracial couples offered an interesting way to view the world...To me, they seemed to show that there's still hope for a united mankind."
I hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo – a troubled yet beautiful country located in central Africa, smack bang on the equator.
And just in case you need me to say it – I’m black.
I’m one of 8 siblings (yes my parent’s had a TV – three, in fact). We are 5 boys and 3 girls of which I am the youngest and I am the second last born overall.
In October of ’93 when I was five years old, my family immigrated to South Africa where I grew up and schooled so you could almost say that South Africa is basically the only home I know.The family I grew up in isn’t particularly deeply entrenched in our cultural ways or practices nor are we ignorant of it. We ate the traditional Congolese cuisine, we speak the native language of the local area in which we lived and we sometimes heard our parents converse with their peers in their ethnic tongue. Even when we emmigrated, this didn’t really change much.
That said, I must add that my family was also fairly “Westernise in that we are Christians; we don’t always eat with our hands like some (if not all) Congolese people do and we don’t only eat our traditional foods – my family has been known to enjoy burgers, pizza or even a good stir-fry. Add to that the fact that my family has also adopted quite a bit of South Africanisms – we often use the local slang words; we get the South African jokes and nuances in speech and well, we genuinely like South Africa. So basically, we are a mix of our culture and the culture that surrounds us.
Now…fast forward a few years ahead into 2012. At this stage, I am a single 24-year-old Christian Congolese/South African working in radio broadcasting as a presenter.
One morning there I am sitting in my office minding my own business when I hear the voice of someone I don’t recognise speaking in the upstairs part of the building where my office was located. Just as I decide to lean back in my chair to see who this unknown voice belongs to, my eyes rest on this gorgeous man walking down the stairs opposite my office.
The first thing I thought was: “Who is that?” and then I noticed his hair-rich, thick and dark…and long!
Very, very long!
And then there was his smile…sigh…me like!!!
Way back when...
From here, you know how it goes: boy meets girl; girl meets boy. They get to know each other. They start to like each other.They begin dating. They get engaged. They get married and now they are currently living their happily ever after! (I told you this wouldn’t be a romantic, love-sick story blog and I’m sticking to that. Let’s maybe save this for another time, another day and another blog).
Now, just in case you need me to say it – my husband is white. Canadian. Gorgeous with rich, thick, dark and short…pretty short hair at the moment. And that smile…sigh…okay, you get the point!
"...how do two people from different people groups, different races, different countries, different continents and even as far as different hemispheres, find each other, fall in love, get married and make it work?"
So, you have seen photos of my family and you may be thinking to yourself that this sounds like a cute story but you might also be asking yourself the question: how does something like this happen? I mean, how do two people from different people groups, different races, different countries, different continents and even as far as different hemispheres, find each other, fall in love, get married and make it work? Those are some good questions and I have not been married nearly long enough nor would I presume to be knowledgeable enough to speak with any great wisdom or authority on the subject but, based on the little that I have experienced this is what I have come to realise:
1. What you are looking for might not come in the package you are expecting.
Growing up, I often heard from
Now am I slamming “making the list?”
I just think that it may be both a good or bad thing, depending on how it is used.
I think that if you’re single you do need to have some standards and know what to look for in a spouse but in my
I don’t know if you caught it? The difference between the two questions… To
Let me answer you in this way: I have noticed in other people’s lives and it has been my own personal experience, that sometimes what we are looking for doesn’t always come in the package that we are expecting. When it comes to love, dating, romance and marriage, yes it might be helpful to have a list.
"Do you know what to really look for in a spouse as opposed to what are you are prepared to look for in a future spouse?"
Things that you both enjoy and you may even express on that list that you would like for you and your potential loved one to be walking in the same general life direction. That’s all well and fine. I won’t deny that we as humans are as spiritual beings as we are physical and emotional beings and so those things do have their place. So, should they be on your list? Sure – I mean there’s no sense in denying that you like what you like, right? Should what you
Not so much…
1. Because our tastes change.
Do you remember having liked someone so much and so deeply that at the time, you were convinced that they were the one…right? But then for some reason or other you eventually got over them and now when you look back on the whole experience you can’t help but ask yourself: “What was I thinking?” Yeah…now imagine if you had married that person! Our tastes are fickle and they can change quicker than the weather.
2. Our taste and the attributes that we want our future spouse to have may not be congruent.
You may want a blonde hair,
Like I said earlier, I haven’t been married for all that long but the longer I walk this road of learning what selfless love and sacrifice is all about through my marriage, I seem to become more and more convinced of this one thing: perhaps what matters most in marriage is cultivating a spirit of like-mindedness with your spouse and doing that has nothing to do with race or culture. It has everything to do with your heart’s attitude and your willingness to make your relationship work. The both of you agreeing on the fundamental principles of how to live your lives and raise your kids; of how you will spend your money and what you will devote your time to, agreeing on those things goes a lot further than concerning yourself with what a person looks like on the outside and whether or not they also like the same kind of movies you do. Sure, it would be cool to have those things in common, but I hope that you would want your marriage to be based on more than just movie genres and physique.
I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that you need to be open to what might be out there and don’t be quick to dismiss someone just
"I have noticed in other people’s lives and it has been my own personal experience, that sometimes what we are looking for doesn’t always come in the package that we are expecting."
I am of the opinion that it is more beneficial for you to learn to love someone as they are as opposed to who we want and expect them to be. When we love someone as they are, we give them the ability to be able to thrive in our love because what is unspokenly communicated is that we love them without condition, without restriction and without reserve. That’s the kind of love that makes a person thrive! Knowing that they are living in an environment where their wrongs aren’t held against them and they have the freedom to just be…that will give a person wings! And it will also be a powerful catalyst in helping them be the very best they can be and reach their potential!
Don’t you want to be loved in that way?
The problem with loving people for who we want them to be is that like I said earlier, our tastes change. Is it really fair to ask our loved one to change at our every whim? Would you want to be a recipient of that kind of love? If not, then why make someone else live under a burden that you, yourself aren’t willing to carry? So take the time to think on the question:Do you know what to really look for in a spouse as opposed to what are you are prepared to look for in a future spouse?
The thing with learning to love someone for who they really are is that this kind of love transcends all barriers: race, culture and ethnicity. Once that happens, there’s no telling who you might love. A little scary but oh so thrilling!
2. The cultural divide
So earlier, I spoke about being like-minded and agreeing on certain fundamental principles. On paper, that may sound like a logical theory. Except in real life, culture and the way we were raised plays a large role in what we deem to be fundemental and that in turn will determine how we judge someone as being as like-minded as us. So that’s where another part of the problem lies – because culture ties in so strongly with how we view the world, it’s not necessarily an easy task to find someone as like-minded as us..right?
But allow me to put something forward to you: perhaps the worldview which you currently subscribe to might need to change in order for the things of real importance to come into focus. Think of it like looking through a pair of binoculars. You won’t see much unless you change the settings so that you’re able to see things clearly. And, unless you have a good pair of binoculars, you’re likely to miss something well worth seeing.
So what am I really trying to say through this analogy?
It’s all well and fine to have your worldview and your ideas but you always need to measure them against a standard more accurate then your own. You need to measure your standards against the standards of Christ! You see unless you’re willing to do that, you will only ever be a broken ruler taking broken measures. The problem with sticking with our own fabricated standards is that they are biased and unrealistic. We make standards that best suit us and which are most convenient for us and we always change our standards so that things will always be suitable for us no matter what. We are in no way sure or steady. We need something greater than ourselves to steady us and keep us on the right track. We need an anchor and His name is Jesus. We need to adopt His ways and His worldview which might just be radically different from what we subscribe to.
"... perhaps what matters most in marriage is cultivating a spirit of like-mindedness with your spouse and doing that has nothing to do with race or culture. It has everything to do with your heart’s attitude and your willingness to make your relationship work."
Now as far as I am aware, Jesus never said anything directly concerning black or white or any other inter-racial relationships. But I think that there are a few things based on how He lived His life that can serve as a guide for us.
1. Jesus didn’t endorse segregation.
In fact, Jesus lived His life making a point of accepting and engaging with the outcasts of His time. The whole purpose of His life here on earth was to reconcile us to God the Father and in so doing, He reconciled man to his fellow brother. Reconcilation between men is one of the natural outworkings of living in relationship with God and this was demonstarted in Jesus’ life because as He lived in perfect union with the Father, He in turn wasn’t afraid to connect with those who were “different” and perhaps less fortunate then the society around them. In fact, He did more than just accept people. He went all the way and loved them – full on, genuinely loved them – to the point where He willingly laid down His life for them. The Jew and the Gentile. The sick and the healthy. The rich and the poor. The educated and the illiterate. Male and female. The righteous and the sinner. He loved them all and He came so that we could all be made whole in Him. He now becomes what joins us and He is therefore the single greatest thing we have in common. How He dictates we should live our lives must become the driving factor in the choices we make. Choices like who we marry.
Once we begin to live as Christ did – by first loving God and then loving people – I think that “the things of the earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” We will begin to see people as more than just a colour and a culture that is different from ourselves. No, colour and culture don’t cease to exist. In fact, their importance heightens in the sense that they serve to show us the immensly creative mind of God and that in turn should inspire and bring forth worship from us. Yes, colour and culture is important but colour and culture need to stay in their place. They cannot separate us from our brother and sisters in Christ because we were meant to be together in Christ!
"When we love someone as they are, we give them the ability to be able to thrive in our love because what is unspokenly communicated is that we love them without condition, without restriction and without reserve. That’s the kind of love that makes a person thrive!"
2. The chasms that divide can become the bridges that join.
One thing that I love in how Jesus lived His life (and it’s something that I need to do better in my own life) is how He reached out to people regardless of what society dictated as being proper and improper. Jesus didn’t spend too much time wondering what the cultural norms were and He certainly didn’t care about what other people would think of Him if He did this, that or the next thing. He just went on and did what He had to do. He spoke to tax collectors; He hung out with fishermen; healed the sick; restored the demon possessed; pardoned the prostitue and offered forgivennes of sin freely. In the society and culture that He lived in, interacting with such people was unheard of! No normal, self-respecting, God fearing person would go ahead and do such a thing! The fact that Jesus would engage with these people was outrageous!
But I love that Jesus has a different perspective than us. He could have let Himself be put out by all of those things. I mean, touching a leaper is no body’s description of fun, right – even if you are the Son of God. But it would seem that those are exactly the kind of people that He spent His time here on earth seeking out. Those people who desparately needed Him, He went out and sought to engage them and He used their need as a point of contact in order to bridge the great divide that lay between them and Himself. Their sickness, their sin, even at times their unbelief and lack of understanding – whatever it was that set these folk apart as being undesirable and unaccepted was exactly what Christ used to draw them to Himself. Who society was quick to label as sick; unclean and sinner Christ reached out and named them healed; pure and redeemed. He was willing to walk as across the great divide of these people’s need and restore them and as these people were reconciled to God, they also inherited a restored relationship with their fellow man. The beauty in this is that these people who now knew that they are loved by God could be reintergrated into society and share this message of hope with others. THe blind could go back into society and say that not only could they see because Jesus had healed them but He also restored sight to their spiritual eyes so that they could truly see. And so the chain effect begins: more people hear; more people believe; more people are reconciled to God and to their neighbour and on and on the cycle goes.
So how does this correspond with culture?
"Once we begin to live as Christ did – by first loving God and then loving people – I think that “the things of the earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” We will begin to see people as more than just a colour and a culture that is different from ourselves."
Imagine if we followed in Jesus’ footsteps and began reaching out to people of a different culture to us: we could share about our culture and our differences and they would do the same. You learn, they learn and together you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other while celebrating the creative God who made each of you different and unique and yet the same because you both in a crazy and marvelous way reflect a part of the image of God. You tell me if it wouldn’t be an amazing world to live in if we each could do that. And here’s the thing, we can all do that! If we are willing, the chasms that divide can become the bridges that join.
So in conclusion:
Believe it or not, I am not trying to convince you to be involved with someone of another race or culture. That’s not what I have been trying to do this whole time. I am merely trying to get you to see that colour, differences in culture, language and world views don’t have to be something that keeps us apart. If we are willing to adopt a mentality of genuine love, compassion and understanding these differences can serve as the bridge on which we walk and begin connecting with one another and in so doing, God’s Kingdom is come here on earth.
At the risk of sounding naive, I will say that I honestly believe that living in this way is possible but I am also very aware that this change of mindest and lifestyle will take time. After all, it’s much harder to unlearn a certain behaviour. So, will it be hard and will there be some challenges? Guaranteed…BUT…just think of how worth it can all be in the end!