Acceptance Is So Shocking That You May Never Get Used To It
Alec Wilson/Wiki Commons
In 1995, Namibia gave visas to my whole family. Since the country used to be under South African control, I thought it was going to be more of the same, but I was shocked to see how cool everyone was with me. Unlike in South Africa, generations of Namibians, Germans, and others groups were on friendly terms almost overnight after their own version of apartheid fell, so they enjoyed the benefits of those kinky mixed-race relations. For the first time, my skin was no big deal.
I also traveled to the UK and the US a few years later, and again, no one gave me a second thought. I was so used to feeling like my skin was a crime that hearing that it didn't really matter came as a shock. At one party in Philadelphia, someone called my parent's relationship "amazing." My mother was as shocked as I was. "But I married a white man! We have a son. That's not unusual?" The person said, "Here? Maybe a little, but most people are fine with that." The people in Britain were the same way. It was like we'd landed on another planet.
Like, I bet no one has even considered jabbing a pencil into that kid's hair.
Today, even in South Africa, it's totally fine to admit being mixed-race. But I still hesitate before admitting it. If I'd said that out loud as a kid, my parents would have gone to prison. You don't unlearn that kind of defensive behavior. Today, 85 percent of Millennial post-apartheid South Africans are fine with interracial marriage, compared to 86 percent of all Americans. Modern mixed-race kids can take pride in their creamy skin and go on walks with their fathers without feeling like crack dealers. That's a beautiful thing.
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