In case you’ve missed it, we’ve started a new series that will pop up here on the blog every Friday.
Recently I have been inundated with content about racism in every shape and form – from issues with mixed race parents or cross racial adoption to being asked to write about it on Heritage Day. There is just so much that we could say on the topic as it’s still touches a very raw nerve in South Africa (and rightfully so).
Besides the odd intentional racist, I feel like a lot of the hurtful comments are actually just brought about through ignorance of how their words will affect other people. Thinking only of our own personal situations with little regard for others, because that’s all that we know. So in an effort to broaden what we know, I thought I would interview a wide range of South Africans that have a variety of different situations – from mixed race couples to single race couples that adopt cross racially to couples that share the same “race” but differ vastly in terms of culture. A bit of a mumble jumble of everything really.
So let’s get started!
I want this to be a safe space where we can share stories and encourage each other to be more accepting of our fellow South Africans of all races, cultures and situations. So while I want to encourage you to comment and open a discussion, I will not tolerate any abusive or troll like comments here.
I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying this series and getting to know so many other families in and around our country. Today is no different, we get to meet Janine and her family. I loved reading this interview because although this family may have been brought together in a different way than what most people are accustomed to, they are no less of a family. Duh.
Over to you Janine!
· Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc
I am Janine, born and raised in South Africa and my fiancé is Charles, born and raised in Zimbabwe. We met 18 months ago and got engaged in December 2014…we will be getting married in September this year (o:
When we met I had two adopted little girls and Charles had a son in Zimbabwe. In October last year Charles was given full custody of his son and we all moved in together as a family.
I am an entrepreneur and have my own business. That keeps me pretty busy but in my spare time I love reading, camping and quality family time. I am an advocate for adoption, multi-racial families and entrepreneurs/ micro-enterprises. I run a FB page called Judge-Mental and my business Ukama Holdings.
· Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc
Charles is also an Entrepreneur running his own business (Deaf Hands @ Work). His passion’s include entrepreneurship, business and he loves to be continually learning! Last year he completed a post graduate degree at UCT(GSB.)
· Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.
I was born in South Africa in an English family attending high school in Cape Town. Charles was born and schooled in Zimbabwe to a Shona Mother and an Ndebele Father. He relocated as a refugee to South Africa in 2007.
· Where do you live? Does how you are “accepted” change when you visit different places?
We live in ‘The Deep South’ of Cape Town, we feel comfortable there and seldom experience any problems. We have mostly dealt with people staring at us, or whispering when we are in different parts of Cape Town, but no other negative behaviours.
· Tell us all about your kids – brag a bit – it’s OK 😉
I have 2 adopted little girls which I adopted while I was single. They were both tiny babies when I adopted them and I raised them single-handedly until Charles moved in in 2014.
Kiara is now 9 years old and in Grade 4. She loves music and dancing and is an amazing big sister with her beautiful caring disposition. She loves animals and nature.
Layla is 5 years old and in Nursery School. She also loves dancing and music and is a very outgoing and busy little girl.
Charlie is 3 years old and is also at Nursery School, he is a funny and happy little boy and has settled really nicely into our family.
· How do you and your partner view race in your relationship? What kind of role does it play in your family? Does it even feature?
It is something that we are all aware of as a family but it doesn’t affect our relationship or the way we raise our kids. Both of us actually love the differences (and the many similarities) and we feel it only deepens our relationship. The kids often talk about their colour but seldom in a negative way. We are very open about race, adoption and the differences in people and feel that the kids are well adjusted. We try to use it as a positive and also emphasise the fact that they are role models at school and need to set good examples. We have many friends that are multi-racial families and cross-cultural as well (by adoption, marriage or other means) and so I don’t feel that they have any major feelings of being ‘different’ at this stage.
· Are there big differences in your marriage relationship that are affected by your heritage/culture?
I would say that there are a few things that one needs to adapt to when you have a cross cultural relationship, but generally I don’t think anything that has been major for us as we really see ourselves as global people. When you love someone you tend to love the differences as well as the similarities. Also I think that we both see learning other cultures as something enriching to both of us rather than something to adapt to.
· How have your families reacted to your relationship?
Both of our families have been very supportive.
· Do you discuss race with your children?
I would say that in our day to day lives we don’t really discuss it much. We are however very open with them about race, culture, adoption, step-parenting and all the issues which affect our family and I try to prepare them mentally for the questions that are out there and make then confident about their reality.
· How have your families reacted to adopting cross-racially?
My parents took a while to accept the idea when I first made the decision but have been very supportive.
· What kind of experiences have you had when you have been out with your kids (alone with them or together as a family)?
I would say just intrusive questions (usually asked very loudly and in front of the children)! Luckily this doesn’t happen often!
· What are some of the ignorant and hurtful things that have been said to you and your kids about this issue?
*”Where are the kids “real” mom?”
*”Are they “real” sisters?”
*”They are so lucky to have you”!
*”Why don’t you have your OWN children”?
· What do you think we can do to combat this ignorance/stupidity?
People need to be educated about adoption and the common misconceptions that are out there.
· Did you have any fears about parenting children of a different race before you had them? Has this changed now that you are their Mom?
I think the fears I have for my kids are the same as what all other parents have for their children: safety, health and happiness. I do get very upset if they are teased or have to deal with questions that they may not be ready for from ignorant people though!
· Do you have any advice for those new to cross-racial adoption?
For me personally it is the BEST thing I ever did and I couldn’t encourage people more to take the adoption journey if they feel it is right for their family. I hope to see so many more SA families and Single people adopting in years to come!
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