One day, probably one or two more generations to come, the notion of interracial and intercultural marriages will be firmly established as an absolute non-issue in our collective psyche. People would have moved on with their lives, and couldn’t really be bothered by what race or tribe you are for marriage.
And if that won’t necessarily be a factual reality, at least it’s our dream. That our four children will one day live in a South Africa that is truly a nation of people that aren’t necessarily colour-blind, but that certainly respect one another and so accord appropriate human dignity and decency in how they live with one another. We dream of a nation where the only basis for judging of our children as law-abiding citizens shall be the content of their character, just like Martin Luther King Jr. once dreamt for his children.
We’re reflecting on this issue because we’ve been consulting with two couples of similar, yet different experiences recently.
One is a case of a “proud Zulu man” that is married to a lady whose mother is Xhosa and father is coloured. “Proud Zulu man” is how he introduces himself. He has a view that Zulus, as a homogenous group, have a way of doing things and a peculiar behaviour that distinguish them from every other grouping. And that’s the source of their major conflict with his liberal wife. They are divorced today.
The other case is equally typical. A Black guy who is about to marry his White fiancée sought our premarital counselling to especially deal with parents who just can’t get along already for racial purposes, and so affect how the in-laws relate with them as a multiracial couple.
Both cases, unique, sensitive and as important as they are, we believe are so unnecessary in 2018. Tribalism, racism and sexism are some of the most notorious evils that are highly invested in ignorance. And as parents and families, we have a job to do to harass them out of our homes.
Children aren’t born tribalists, racist or sexist. They are taught at home. And they in turn go out to rubbish society with all that junk from home. The only two things our 5 year old son dislikes the most is sleeping and taking a bath. A dislike for any tribe, race or women, we would have taught him as it’s not in him.
The idea that Zulus, Xhosas, Sothos etc. each have a collective way of behaviour that makes them unique from one another as groups is as ignorant as believing Whites are genetically superior to Blacks. Or that men are created superior to women.
We are yet to come across credible literature that would convince us that there’s a genetic set of individual behavioural patterns that are exclusively identified with any tribe. And we believe the reason such literature is non-existent is because such material would be mythical.
All credible oral history and scholarly studies into our tribes are almost unanimous in the broad conclusion that there really is no such thing as Xhosa, Zulu or others as we know them today. These are largely pre-colonial constructs many of-which were the results of migrations.
UmXhosa, meaning an “angry men”, was a descriptive term given to Chief Mnguni’s people by the modern day Khoisan. This name stuck with Chief Mnguni’s oldest son and was known throughout as umXhosa. When he took over the chieftaincy and later built his own kingdom, his people were known as amaXhosa.
Zulu was once a small clan under the leadership of one Shaka kaSenzangakhona, the son of Senzangakhona kaJama and Nandi. He consolidated through war invasions many other clans like Mhlongo, Nxumalo, after Shaka killed Zwide, Mthethwa, after the death of Dingiswayo, Dlamini and many others into what he called amaZulu.
Tribal identity was highly affirmed by colonialists, because it suited their strategy of divide and conquer. There is nothing biological about belonging to these tribes. “Zuluness” or whatever tribe, is not in your blood. There is nothing genetic about it. Therefore to derive the core of your identity solely on your tribe and race is to deny yourself an opportunity to experience the beauty of life beyond your self-imposed prison.
Race prejudices are equally ludicrous, and are a product of the same medieval ignorance that gave rise to beliefs in vampires and soulmates. It’s the ultimate ignorance that relates “self” to the human body, instead of the spirit. It’s like judging the quality of the car by its colour and not by the engine. Racism is steeped in equally worse ignorance as tribalism, and it does not deserve the dignity of our limited space in this column.
Notwithstanding our history as a country, there really is nothing astonishing about interracial and intercultural coupling. In fact, it’s inevitable, even with our evil political history as a country. The genuineness of love will always expose the farce of racism and tribalism, because love is stronger than death itself.
Beyond our education on heritage, we had to school ourselves on cross-cultural relationships because Mo is Xhosa and Phindi is Zulu. And believe us, that’s nothing to be taken lightly.
Trouble always beckons whenever you don’t take people as people. However, if you do, love awaits on the other side. Authentic love will find you as soon as you tear down the evil walls of race classification and tribalism. And when it finds you, it’ll be so powerful that you’ll begin to realise the vanity of all these things.