It was my first time in Cardiff, Wales. And I hadn’t been back in the United Kingdom since I was a kid. My childhood best friend and I took his daughters and their first cousin swimming and to a treat at Chicken House. But after a while of driving around, and changing venue from one recreation to another, my consciousness was stirred: nobody was looking at us. Nobody, was staring or even noticed that anything was awry, bizarre, or unusual: the sight of two black men chaperoning two biracial girls and a white girl did not evoke anything or raise eyebrows, or concern in the almost all white neighborhoods we traveled through in Cardiff.
A few days earlier, on the eve of my departure from the United States, I was standing in line at the grocery store, purchasing some last-minute items for my trip to the UK. Standing just ahead of me was a blonde-haired white man in his 40s. He was well groomed and trendy. A light-skinned black girl held on to his arm talking excitedly. He responded to her plethora of proclamations with a constant, “yes, honey…yes, honey” and a fixed contented smile on his face. A black woman who appeared to be in her 70s, who had been staring at them all along, no longer able to restrain herself, suddenly walks up to them and demands in a stern and almost angry voice, “is this your daughter?” (the alternative I suppose, would have been that the teenage girl was his girlfriend, and he was seducing her with a shopping spree?)
The pleasant and dapper looking “blondie” smiled and nodded. You could see the look of relief on his interrogator’s face as it cracked into a smile, and she asserts, “her mother’s black!” And they both nod, as they all engaged in pleasant banter.
In that moment, I recalled my blonde female colleague in Boston, who had been married to a man from Cameroon in West Africa. Now divorced, she would affirm that he had left her with a beautiful daughter. However, she would narrate her travails with women, who constantly asked her in the streets, “is she yours?” Once they confirmed that the pre-pubescent girl was indeed the white woman’s biological child, they would proceed to “advise” her on how to do her hair, she told me.
On that day we spent in Cardiff, my best friend and I never had to endure, any inquisitive stares, any question, or even a glance for spending an entire day with two biracial pre-teens and a 10-year-old white girl.
I hadn’t seen what the big deal was, when my colleague, Dawn, seemed flustered as she narrated the constant questioning she felt harassed by, from strange black women who asked, “is she yours?” whenever she was seen with her daughter in public.
It was almost like being violated, by being required so to speak, to prove one’s rights to what belongs to you.
I can understand the 70-year old woman’s uncertainty, given that until fifty years ago in the State of Maryland, it was a crime for blacks and whites to marry. Loving v. Virginia, the landmark case which overruled anti-miscegenation laws is only fifty years old. She was already an adult, and certain attitudes about mixed couples were firmly entrenched in her consciousness.
But Cardiff in Wales gives me hope. That if a predominantly white community can accept interracial couples and biracial children as the norm, so can all of America.