Behind The Scenes Of A Mixed Race Family – The Alfinos


Is it weird that I have a whole series but never thought to include myself in it?  Maybe not, but truthfully I’m waiting for more people to get back to me with their answers so I have a space to fill 😉  On that note…

If you would like to join in and be featured in this series or know of someone that would, please feel free to get in touch with me on cindyalfino@gmail.com.

I’m glad that you’re back to read the next installment.  Here are the older ones in case you want to catch up.

Here’s a little bit of background as to why I want to do this series and why I want YOU to read it and share it with your friends.  Besides the odd intentional racist, I feel like a lot of the hurtful comments floating around 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.

Even though I have been running this series for months, I’ve never realised how hard it can be to openly talk about race.  It’s weird.  We often talk and joke about it as a family because we know what we are comfortable with saying/hearing, but putting it out there for everyone else to see is quite different.  So thanks again to those that have been in this series – you’re great!!!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do, what you like to spend your time on etc

I’m sure if you’ve been popping in here over the years, you’ll probably know more about me than you know about the colleague working next to you, but if you’re new then here’s the low down…

There are many things that make up my day – mainly juggling the social/emotional/educational lives of our three kids, working at the insurance brokerage that I co-own and trying to catch fleeting moments of alone time with my husband.  When I’m not doing any of those things, I’m probably writing on this space or trying to work in time to do the things I always want to do but never have time for like reading, yoga and you know, me stuff.

Tell us a little bit about your partner – what they do, what they like to spend time on etc

Seth is technically my high school sweet heart, but he hates when I say that because he wasn’t in school when we met.  Not that it matters now.  We’ve been together for 12 years in September so I’ve seen him grow from a carefree teenager to an amazing husband and then into an incredible father to our kids.  He is an Architect by day – so you’ll often find him knocking walls to figure out what they’re made of (and other things you’ll experience living with and Architect) but by night he’s the guy that loves our kids and falls asleep next to me while we watch Game of Thrones.

He recently got into being fit, so when he’s not at the gym, he’s running up a mountain or weighing his food.  It’s tiring watching him but the hard work is paying off!

Give us a bit of insight into your racial/cultural backgrounds.

I suppose it’s quite clear that I’m white – apparently I have enough Irish blood in me to be granted an Irish passport even though I’ve never left SA, so there’s that.  In terms of race, we were brought up to love anyone and everyone.  Even though both my parents were in the thick of apartheid South Africa at the time, they tried to never let that negative influence enter our home – although you can always count on the odd slip up by a grandparent.  Sigh.

Seth is coloured but as you can probably tell by the “Alfino”, there is some Italian blood coursing through his veins.  His family was also accepting of everyone, despite suffering at the hands of apartheid – the chaos that it spread across our country and how it affected them directly.

I went to a largely “coloured” school where I picked up the way that everyone else spoke – which was with quite an accent.  Seth on the other hand had the complete opposite experience and had the “whitest” accent ever (still does).  We often joke that he’s the white one and I’m the coloured one.

Where do you live? Does how you are “accepted” change when you visit different places?

We stay in Cape Town, which I’m guessing is probably one of the more accepting towns in SA.  We’ve never really had any issues here but the more we venture through the curtain (to the Northern Suburbs for those not from here) the more interesting it gets.  We once went for a holiday in Jeffereys Bay and wow, were blown away at how ridiculous some people were.

Tell us all about your kids

Where do I even start?  Our three keep us permanently on our toes.  We had our girls very close together (actually only 12 months apart) so Kyla is about to turn 6 and then just two weeks later Riya turns 5.  We decided that it wasn’t crazy enough, so we add another little bundle to the mix and he just completed our family so well.  Knox is turning 3 in September.

They are a funny bunch – I love getting to know them more as they get to grow and learn more about themselves.

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What kind of role does race play in your family dynamic?  

It doesn’t really play a role at all actually.  I suppose if anything it’s the cultural traditions play more of a part in our daily lives.

How have your families reacted to your relationship and subsequent marriage?
Both our families were very accepting.  It wasn’t even an issue.  If my Grandmother had been alive to see it, then we might have had to deal with a bit of a reaction.
Our families are really great and without them, we would not be able to do this whole life thing.  We’re a close knit bunch that see each other all the time and both families include each other at all the social gatherings that we have.  I love it.
Are there big differences in your marriage relationship that are affected by your heritage/culture?

There are obviously differences, even if we happened to be the same race there would be differences, but that’s what keeps it fun.

We were used to small, intimate parties where you really only invited friends and immediate family – unless it was a big birthday of course (think 40th, 50th etc).  With Seth’s family, every function includes the WHOLE family.  If I had to tell you how everyone was related it would probably blow your mind – we regularly see Seth’s grandfathers -brothers – wife’s – sisters childrens children.  See what I mean?  These functions used to freak me out (having never really experienced them before), having to go up to each person and kiss them hello and goodbye was kind of terrifying.  With my family, you’d sort of come in and give a general wave of acknowledgment, so it was a big change for me.  But I love these gatherings now.  Having such a close family unit really is something that I think we under value.

Besides that there are loads of other little things that are different – having to always have so much food that there’s enough for everyone to take home for example 😉

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What are some of the ignorant and hurtful things that have been said to you and your husband about this issue?

People are just so stupid when it comes to this kind of thing.  We’ve never had anyone openly say anything but we have had too many instances to count where we get incredulous looks.

What kind of experiences have you or your partner had when you have been out with your kids (alone with them or together as a family)? 

For me it’s not really an issue because the girls and I have a similar look, but Seth is obviously a bit different to them.  One time we were out at a mall and I was pregnant with Knox and so it was really difficult for me to carry the girls for long periods of time.  Riya would have none of that logic though, so she demanded to be held by me all the time.  Seth obviously took her from me and she kept screaming for me and trying to get away from him.  Everyone kind of stared at him like he was busy abducting the child.

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Did you have any fears about parenting mixed race children before you had them?  Have any of those fears changed since becoming a Mommy/Daddy to kids with mixed genes?

I wouldn’t say that I had fears, but obviously I wondered what they would look like (as I’m sure most parents do).  Everyone always makes a big deal about hair, so we did have a few lighthearted conversations about how I’d have to take them to Seth’s mom to help me if they did have very curly hair.  The funny thing is that I do the girls hair with his mom anyway.

Sometimes I wonder if I have made life a bit harder for them, you know, because South Africa places SO much emphasis on race.  Like which box do they tick on all the bloody forms?  We always ignore the box or make our own “human” box so it’s not a big deal to us right now, but I do wonder if they will personally struggle with this identity issue later on in life.

What do you think we can do to combat this ignorance/stupidity?

I’m all about talking about it.  Often there’s the extreme of being a full on racist of course, but then people want to go the opposite of “I don’t see colour” or “everyone is the same”.  Both of these are equally harmful.  We have differences, of course we do, and that’s what makes it interesting.  Being able to talk about it, experience the differences and grow through them are what we need to do.  Being able to talk about it and laugh at the silly things we do differently is important.

Do you have any advice for those in a mixed race relationship that are facing judgement because of it?

Screw ’em.  Seriously though, it doesn’t matter what they think.

 

Like what you’ve read here?  That’s flipping awesome – feel free to share it with your friends.  Also come hang out with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram where you can expect to find a whole lot more of this, just shorter.

8 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes Of A Mixed Race Family – The Alfinos

  1. Love this series!

    Just a quick story – I’m also from Cape Town and my husband and I are both coloured and look it 🙂 but my eldest son if very light of complexion and has blonde hair. We had the same issue when he was younger and we’d go the mall. We’d get strange looks from people, some very disapproving, some outright asking if he is my son. And don’t talk if he was screaming! lol

    Looking forward to reading more in this series.

  2. I love this! Had a giggle at the traditions you had to get used to. Yep, hugs and kisses for every long lost aunt & uncle and enough food to feed a small village sounds about right!

  3. Absolutely love this- ultimately, I hope South Africans just identify themselves as South Africans and “race” is the non-issue it should be… and the more mixed race couples, the more this will become the case. You go girl. xxx

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