Love in any language – crossing the line


Across the line, who would dare to go? Over the bridge, under the tracks, that separate whites from blacks. Choose sides; run for your life.

These are Tracy Chapman’s words, not mine. And I am pretty sure she wasn’t writing about love, but they seemed appropriate in the context of this week’s topic.

In the Mills and Boon model, there is a formula that goes something like this: Boy meets girl; they hate each other; then something happens; they fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. The boy and girl are always from the same race, tribe or social circle.

If any lines are crossed they are usually economic boundaries — as in he is very rich and she is poor (seldom the other way around!)

Of course this model is based very much in the Western context and bears little resemblance to the reality most people encounter on the ground.

It goes without saying that a topic like this will carry a lot of broad generalisations, so bear with me on that score.

In the real world there are issues, ladies and gentlemen, and alongside the issues there are questions.

Should romantic relationships between blacks and whites be encouraged? Should Shonas and Ndebeles intermarry? Does it reflect badly on your own ethnic group if you choose to love outside of it?

Does it indicate there is something missing or a need unmet among your own? What makes those who cross the racial and tribal lines do it? And further down the line, are there regrets on ethnic grounds?

What are the implications for the offspring of mixed marriages, particularly between blacks and whites where the result will be a family made up of three races?

How important is it for members of a family unit to look the same? Does it make me a racist if I don’t want my kids to marry outside their race?

Given our colonial background, do black people see it as a status symbol to have a white in-law?

When I posed these questions to a variety of friends and acquaintances, the responses I got were so interesting and so many that I would have to do a month-long series on the subject, so I thought I would just share with you the ones that made me think hard, as well as the ones that made me laugh out loud.

A white male friend who tends to date black women claims the needs of modern black girls are not being met by black guys, mostly because black men are still very conservative, while their women are much more adventurous, particularly in bed.

The examples he gave me cannot be published in a family paper, but you’ll have to believe me when I say they were completely outrageous!

A more serious observation came from a woman who reckons extended families are much more constructive and generous with a white in-law than with one from another tribe.

So for instance a Shona boy who brings home a white girl will get a lot more sympathy and co-operation than one who brings home a Ndebele.

A white woman friend said all she knows is that all men are the same — black, white, yellow or green — they are all (more unpublishable results here)!

Black women who have crossed the line say this is not true. What they can’t seem to agree on is which they really prefer!

For every Tarzan there is a Jane, but what race is Tarzan? And does Jane have to be white? What happens when Tarzan is white and Jane is black?

Do we expect her to know more about living in the bush because she is African, and is that a fair assumption?

There is of course, the religious angle. If we are all Christians, should it matter whether you marry within your tribe or race?

The many myths surrounding Christian faith generally involve all Christians being one big happy tribe and therefore the earthly ethnicity ceases to matter.

But is it really that simple? Supporters on both side of the argument are able to quote the Bible convincingly.

One of the best lines I’ve heard on the subject came from a black pastor who married a white woman.

He said: “Every marriage is an intercultural marriage.” That made a lot of sense, because every home is different and at the end of the day, what is done in your home is your experience of culture.

With the growth of globalisation there are more and more opportunities for people from different countries and racial groups to meet and find common ground.

Many young people who go to the Diaspora don’t come back to settle and so the issues of yesteryear become irrelevant.

One realises that the amount of exposure their spouse will have to the mother country (and indeed to the mother!) will be so limited as to be practically irrelevant.

In the final analysis, it seems that people are just people. In every race, every tribe and every economic group, there are insecurities, assumptions and prejudices.

There are people who are there to make life harder and others who make it their business to smooth the way for the outsider — for whatever reason.

It may sound mind-numbingly boring and unoriginal, but I can best sum it up with a line from gospel singer Helen Baylor: We all wanna be loved – halleluia!

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to

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