11 February, 2016

Everyone referred to me as the ‘coloured girl’

I am not that and even though I come from a good family, the colour of my skin was still what mattered

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When I met Nick, my future husband, the only thing that mattered to me was what we felt. I didn’t consider race or culture until a time came when I was inevitably faced with it.

I come from a Coloured Christian home. He comes from an Indian Hindu home. I visited Durban before  – and every time I did I was met with looks of disapproval when walking around holding my partner’s hand.

It was the first time in my life I had experienced it. Subtle at first, but it increased over time.

We both lived in Cape Town and in my experience, the people were more accepting of an interracial couple.

A change in employment caused him to move back to Durban for a year and during this time, after being engaged for a year prior, we had decided to get married.

Beautiful moments shared between two people who came together to wed despite their differences.
Beautiful moments shared between Lauren and Nick who came together to wed despite their differences.

News of our marriage spread fast. Soon aunts, uncles and cousins twice-removed were calling to find out what the latest was and when our nuptials would take place. We decided to have the wedding in Cape Town where all of my family was. His parents and brother flew in for the wedding and we all had a wonderful day.

The moment we relocated to Durban was another story. People were visiting and calling from all over, questioning why we didn’t have a traditional ceremony in Durban.

The incident I remember most clearly and the one that hurt most was when everyone referred to me as the “coloured girl”.

They would often say to him, “So you married a coloured girl?” as if being coloured was a disease.

Lauren Daniels tell us how it feels to be referred to as 'the coloured girl'.
Lauren Daniels tell us how it feels to be referred to as ‘the coloured girl’.

I am not a confrontational person, even though I like to think I could be when necessary, so I would just sit there in shock or wait on someone to say something. If nothing happened, I would walk away, visibly upset until the family member left.

What they have always wanted and expected for him was to marry “a nice Hindu girl from a respectable Indian family.”

I am not that and even though I come from a good family, the colour of my skin was still what mattered.

His parents have slowly started to accept me, five years later, yet show open acceptance to sibling’s Indian girlfriends almost instantly.

The looks of disdain remain and when we go to a shopping mall there is still some uneasiness when people pass us by. It is believed that marrying outside of your culture dilutes it. So even if you are Tamil and marry someone from a Hindu family, it is still seen as an impurity.

Thus for him to have married outside of his culture and race is meant to be a big deal.

Irrespective of the family I come from, that is not enough. Although his parents have come around and accepted me I still feel the after effects of something I have no choice or control over.

He has cut ties with some of his family members who continue to openly address their dissatisfaction with our marriage and we try to avoid the negativity as much as we can.

The opposite end of the spectrum

Being married to someone of another race has also taught me a lot. Not everything about the Indian community is negative and I have learnt to embrace them as some have embraced me.

The strong love Indians have for culture and their generosity the coloured community often lacks, has certainly opened my eyes to the vast differences.

In this short time, I’ve learnt to cook curry and soji and drape a saree, while at the same time introducing some coloured delicacies like bobotie and trifle pudding.

Our generation faces many challenges and loving someone from a different race shouldn’t be one of them.

There are too many issues that require attention and energy and small-minded racists should try focusing on one of those.

Who another person loves is their prerogative.

As for the people who choose to be judgmental and racist, I can only hope the scales fall off their eyes.

Written by Lauren Daniels for the #RacismStopsWithMe campaign. An initiative by Independent Media, Sactwu, Sekunjalo Holdings, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Fibre Processing & Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority Seta.

Engage with Lauren on Twitter: @JournoLolz