Growing up, comedian and host of the ‘Daily Show’, Trevor Noah says that interracial dating in South Africa during the oppressive system of apartheid was illegal. Dating across racial lines was banned by law. And this is what inspired his memoir Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. The title “Born a Crime” was inspired by his mother’s story, Patricia, who was jailed and fined for giving birth to Noah, a mixed-race child. So centuries later, are things better?
Scroll on as we explore how things are today…
Interracial relationships South Africa
Interracial relationships in South Africa during apartheid were illegal. Period! Speaking of Patricia, she had a rough time bringing Trevor up during the Apartheid era. His own father who was Swiss was terrified to be caught in public with a biracial child to the extent where he couldn’t even hold his own son’s hand in public. Trevor remembers he used to run down the streets and the father would run away from him because didn’t want them to get into trouble. At the time, Trevor thought it was a game. He had no clue they were running away from the law. The mother had to act as the caregiver so as not to get in trouble for being in a ‘white’ area.
The thing is, much as the numbers are increasing, less than 4 decades ago, interracial couples might have gone to jail. They would be forced to hide their relationships like Trevor’s mother and father. But much as interracial couples still attract stares, most of them feel that they are fortunate to live in these times. More people are embracing interracial relationships.
Today there is a growing number of interracial couples in South Africa, who are trying to claim their rightful place. Up to date, even the former leader of South Africa’s largest opposition party (Democratic Alliance) is repeatedly asked questions about his wife of 13 years being white. And seeing as race is still an issue in the country, there are those who might distance themselves from his party because his wife is white and then there are those who are drawn to it because of their union which shows inclusivity.
But much as president Nelson Mandela promised a post-apartheid”rainbow nation”, interracial couples still stick out. Its all about developing a thick skin and getting used to the stares.
Interracial relationships in South Africa during apartheid
The first major piece of legislation during the apartheid was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act which was passed in 1949. The law prohibited marriages between white South Africans and black South Africans or any of the other ethnic groups in the country.
Interracial relationships South Africa post-apartheid
There are those people who live in SA who refer to themselves as the “born-free generation.” This is the generation of South African’s born after apartheid. Has being “born free” concept had any positive impact on interracial dating in South Africa and how society sees interracial couples?
Apparently not. Just like in all other places in the world, an interracial couple’s feeling of being “born free” largely depends on who you are dealing with. For instance, when a black person brings home someone who us white, you will get the “Oh! So you are bringing a white girl?”. Well, this could be generational.
When you meet parents who lived under apartheid their take on interracial relationships will be different from that of the post-apartheid generation. The older generation might still be skeptical and judgy towards interracial marriage.
But the younger generation sees things differently. And they are the reason for the increase in interracial dating in South Africa.
When looking at interracial marriage in South Africa Black men are more likely to be in mixed marriages. Interracial marriages are more prevalent amongst Africans, colored and Indian racial groups. As you guessed, Caucasians are least likely to marry interracially with interracial relationships being more common and interracial black people and other colored people.
Factors contributing to the prevalence of interracial marriage in South Africa
Awareness of race issues
South Africans have to some extent become aware of interracial relationships because we are seeing more of them. Yes, there may be interracial dating challenges. Yes, interracial couples may get stares here and there. But not all these stares are bad. Most of them are fascination and even admiration stares.
People are also learning how to cope with race and are also discovering ways of dealing with racial biases from society at large.
Much as there may still be some negative social attitudes towards interracial relationships, there still lots of benefits. The more we see interracial couples, the more we see decreased prejudice and more tolerance to interracial relationships.
Plus, as per some studies, an individual’s intergroup attitudes could benefit from interracial friendships merely by
observing positive things that come out of the relationship. Looking at the post-apartheid era, social attitudes towards interracial marriages have generally changed positively. There is a larger proportion that is neutral or somewhat positive.
Most of the younger generations in South Africa are going to mixed-race schools. So to this group, it is normal for them to interact with people of different colors and races. These are people who have been through the same education and can relate to each other because of growing up in similar environments. The thing is there are certain environments that increase opportunities for interracial friendships. For instance, teaching orientation and racial diversity can be effectively harnessed by schools to improve interracial interactions among students.
The thing is interracial friendships and increased social contact do increase the opportunities for interracial relationships and also the openness to interracial marriages.
The levels of education also play a big role. Those people who are more educated that have attained higher levels have more exposure to people of other races in the universities. Then there are those who have traveled abroad for studies which makes them more likely to get into and be more open to interracial relationships.
Interracial dating sites in South Africa
Most people are joining interracial dating sites to find love. The increase in such sites has also contributed to people approaching other individuals in an environment that is less prejudicial. The increase in interracial dating sites in South Africa has also played a role in the prevalence of interracial relationships. They present individuals with opportunities to meet like-minded individuals from other races. Online dating has made people more confident about dating interracially.
There is also the contribution of self accounts and reports from other individuals who have successfully dated interracially online. These success stories have played a major role in motivating people to date interracially. “If it worked for them, why not give it a shot?”
More liberal individual characteristics
We are in the post-apartheid era. So the “born free” generation seems to have more liberal ideologies and integrated environments. Living in integrated neighborhoods and attending integrated schools gives this generation more exposure to individuals of other ethnicities. So for them, they have the opportunity.
Then speaking of liberal ideologies, there is also the motivation to get into interracial relationships. For instance, there are lots of ads that portray interracial relationships. And when you also look at interracial dating sites in South Africa, couples speak openly about their success stories. At the same time, the motivation bit can also be evidenced by the self-reports of couples in interracial marriages.
Some people feel that they have qualities that certain ethnicities find attractive or they desire some physical characteristics that are associated with a specific race. That said though, it normally boils down more to the personality of the potential mate as opposed to race. So basically, we are back to the opportunity to interact with someone of a different race in order to be drawn to their personality.
Much as people might cite racial factors as what has caused the prevalence in interracial relationships in South Africa, non-racial factors seem to play a major role. It is more about common interests shared and physical attractiveness – which is not race-related.
What are some barriers to interracial relationships in South Africa?
Racially and ethnically related hate crimes top the list. The risk of victimization for being an interracial couple, especially for black South Africans still presents a barrier to pursuing interracial relationships hence scaring some individuals away from interracial dating in South Africa.
The thing is, much as people predict some level of instability in interracial relationships, these couples tend to be more securely attached and they work together towards protecting their union. They also tend to have mutual respect and affection for one another. They also tend to have more in common personality-wise than not.
It is a work in progress…
It’s an individual and yet societal mindset that needs to change before we’re any closer to really embracing each other in a way that skin color is looked at differently. Despite the positive figures, there remains significant public opposition and stigma associated with interracial dating in South Africa. But whether we like it or not, interracial relationships seem to be the way of the future.
So does this mean that we are closer to eradicating in South Africa? Unfortunately, this is a place we might never reach. We keep hearing people calling out racists day in day out on social media among other racially charged violent incidents.
That said, the rise in interracial relationships in South Africa is quite refreshing. This means more South Africans are embracing multiculturism and mixed-race couples. Some suburbs seem to be more receptive to the idea that love knows no color. However, those with more cities with tighter cultural influences like Durban and Cape Town, not so much.
The thing is, so long as people are integrating with one another at their places of living, in schools and at work, we are definitely going to get better attitudes and more openness because after a while, you get to realize that there is nothing different between races because you share so much in common.
For more race-related articles, visit Love is All Colors.