A couple of weeks ago a sad woman told her tale in the Sunday Times of how her relationship with her black boyfriend of four years had
broken up. She said he refused to meet her
family; he told her from the beginning that they would never marry or have children; that he couldn't show affection to her, his 'oppressor'. She filled out her story with quotes from the extremist US black separatist Louis Farrakhan and concluded that 'until racism no longer exists. . .mixed relationships don't work'. My dear - black and white nothing, you were with the wrong man.
Then the Guardian ran a piece about the 'new apartheid - black racism, a big issue in the United States, is increasing over here. 'Why black men are leaving white women', said the puff. It quoted a British black separatist,
Brother Mohammed Sulaiyman, talking about black men who go with white women only to get their own back on society, and a white woman who goes out only with black men, saying she likes them because their skin is so beautiful to touch, 'like velvet'. (Good foundations for
relationships or what?)
The article quoted black people saying only a worthless white woman would go with a black man and that white girls are 'stealing all the black men, many want them only as status
symbols anyway. They talked about black men's confusion at facing white racism all day and then going home to a white woman, and about mixed couples being shouted at in the streets of
Then the Independent on Sunday ran a column from Zoe Heller in New York about the comments she and a black male friend heard as they walked about the city - and they were not friendly comments.
I went into a decline for a while after reading all this. Is it a media bandwagon? Is it just more anti-black racism? No, I know that black racism exists. I know that it is - and I use this word carefully - understandable. It is complicated and delicate ground. But when personal inadequacies and problems are extended into general statements about the state of the world, it cannot be left unanswered. Or if the personal can be presented as the general, can I at least add my view?
I have been the mother of a mixed-race child for a year and a half, living in a similarly mixed area of London, and I have never once felt one iota of prejudice from black people around me. Not from her father's family, not from his friends, not from black friends of mine, not from the neighbours or the people in the street. Not in Shepherd's Bush, not in Harlesden. People do not yell 'Jungle Fever] at us in the street; they say 'Good morning. How's the baby?'
Am I blind and deaf? I don't believe so. Am I lucky? Maybe. More likely, I believe, is that most people, if not the most vociferous people, black as well as white, think that one's personal life is their own business. If a black person who did not know us were to suggest I had stolen my child's father from his people, we would have to say, firstly, he is not my property; secondly, he is not their property, and thirdly, he is a free man, he does what he wants. But nobody ever has said that to me.
Well, they wouldn't, I hear you say. So must we live with a paranoia about it? I say no. Mixed-race couples and families exist, and many exist well and happily. That is all I want to say.
Adults can deal with the pressures of racism. What hurts more is thinking about it from the children's side. But even then, things need not be that bad. To white people our daughter is black, which is fact. What is she to black people? White, in a way, when she is with her white mother. Most importantly though, she has a
loving extended family on both sides (although half of them are in Ghana) and she will know who and what she is as she grows up.
She will be brought up with a sense of being a combination of two good things, of being the best of both. Either community may choose to reject her. (And I wish someone would define 'community'. What is 'the black community? One great mass of people who think exactly the same way because they are not white? Excuse me, isn't that a bit racist?) Or they could choose to accept her. So far they have done so. But mixed-race children who don't have families who can back them will need help - or at least not hindrance - from everyone else.
If blacks and whites do not accept mixed-race people as part of themselves, there is another answer - another 'community'. Brother Sulaiyman says that the only fruit of mixing races has been the development of a hierarchy of colour; as if a stupid reaction to something necessarily devalues the thing itself; as if racism were the only fruit of being black, or sexism the only fruit of being a woman. The fruit of racial mixing is mixed-race people, and they may, as black
people have, choose (or be forced) in time to claim their identity. Christopher, an Irish Guyanese lad of four, says one reason he likes my daughter is 'because she's black and white, like me'. I'm backing Christopher against Louis Farrakhan. I have to.