A few years ago I interviewed an extraordinary woman called Gill Danesh in Manchester. She was a strikingly beautiful former model. Her father owned a retail business and he was devoted to his family. They were happy, they went to church, they lived decent lives.
Then she met Sayeed, an Iranian engineer who had left Iran after the revolution. He was tall, contemplative and, like Gill, very good looking. When they decided to get married, her good girlfriends warned her that Arabs and other Eastern swarthies were very good at captivating white women who were then turned into slaves and mercilessly brutalised. Men she knew at work said she was a slut.
Gill and Sayeed married anyway and had twins - a boy, who was fair with light eyes, and a girl, who had darker skin and looked like her father. When they were out, people treated the children completely differently. Matthew the boy would be admired and Sara, his sister, would be ignored. When they were 18 months old, Gill's father - who had held and kissed her babies - got drunk and accused her of contaminating the family bloodline by having mongrel children. Later at school Sara was called a "Paki" and Matthew would get into fights to protect her. Gill said she simply had to believe that things would get better as time went on and more mixed- race families emerged across the country.
This was back in the Eighties, and in the 20 years since then much has changed. Today this country has one of the highest rates of mixed-race relationships in the western world, and I have written often about how the trend is unstoppable and that this is one of the most remarkable features of modern Britain.
But only the foolishly optimistic would take this to mean that there is now an overwhelming acceptance of these relationships. On the contrary. The increase in numbers only provokes those who, consumed with racial hatred or ideas of cultural and racial purity, feel entitled to use any means necessary to stop this "pollution". It is said that the losers during the last days of a battle often let rip in appallingly brutal ways.
More and more victims of racial violence are of mixed race or in mixed- race families. This week a gang of white men stabbed former athlete Chris Cotter, who has had a long-term relationship with the Olympic hopeful Ashia Hansen. As they stabbed Cotter, his attackers told him to stay away from "niggers". Last month, Sunil Modi, a British Asian scriptwriter, and a white female friend were ambushed in his car and seriously assaulted by a gang in Liverpool, a city with one of the oldest mixed-race communities in Britain. The McGowan family in Telford, who are fighting to get a new investigation into the "suicides" of two male relatives, are mixed race and have faced years of racial harassment.
Celebrities are not immune. Sharron Davies and her ex-partner, the black athlete Derek Redmond were sent explosives hidden in a video cassette. Frank Bruno, his white wife and his mother had to get police protection because they were getting serious threats. Dawn French and Lenny Henry have suffered abuse.
We simply do not know how many Asian girls are terrorised, beaten and destroyed by their families because they fall in love with someone who does not come from the same caste, clan, race or religion. To see just how relentless this punishment can be, you need to read Jack and Zina, a true story of a white working-class man and a British Muslim woman who have been on the run since 1995 and have still not found a safe place to settle. In February, Hardip Samra was stamped on until he lost consciousness by a gang of Asians. His white fiancee, Kasia Myers believes it is because they disapprove of her. An elderly white woman, who has been married for 46 years to a black man, rang Radio Five Live's Nicky Campbell Show yesterday to complain of her treatment by some black women. Behind many a successful black man is a white woman who suffers such attacks, mostly in silence.
People in these relationships face daily insults, comments, lack of respect, accusations which will never grab the headlines but which, like low-level radiation, poison their lives and, in the end, ruin any chance of a half-decent future.
Ten years ago, I interviewed eight couples in what were successful mixed- race relationships. Today only three are together. We know that there is serious over-representation of mixed-race children in our care system, and forthcoming research by Dr Ravinder Barn, of Royal Holloway College, will reveal why this is happening. Her interim findings indicate that low-income, white, lone mothers of mixed-race children are highly likely to put their children into care. And it isn't because these are bad and selfish mothers. Nurturing stable families is hard even when all external conditions are propitious. But if your own family or community expect the worst outcome (even if they smile, attend the wedding and wish you well) an evil spell is already cast.
Everyday problems become racial. You find yourself thinking in hateful ways. A friend who has three mixed-race children says she despises herself but cannot take the darkest one with her when she goes to her posh hairdresser. Another woman I know has resorted to telling people that her child is adopted. As a lone parent, she found the racism
directed against her intolerable.
I have been dropped from guest lists by Asian friends I cared about a great deal. Maybe it is because they find me boring and quarrelsome, but I have long suspected that it is because they feel uneasy about my English husband. Like many others who have made the choice to marry out, I have no regrets, but it is exhausting and at times very painful to be in a relationship which is still regarded by society as outside the norm and which makes so many want to kill and maim you and yours.
They should remember, however, that no impediments - not apartheid, not lynchings or burnings - have ever been able to frighten off the passion which drives people to break down social barriers and get together for better or worse.Reuse content