In the long history of vicious and often deadly racism directed towards blacks by whites, the most hated, despised, anxiety-provoking real or imagined incident was that of sexual intercourse between a white woman and a black man. Whether in colonial Africa, apartheid South Africa, and during centuries of African slavery and post slavery period in the Americas, a mere allegation of sexual intercourse between a white woman and a black man often led to immediate death of the accused black man by lynching. The legacy of this extreme racial bigotry might still exist today among some people. It is sometimes reflected in strong public objections to and disapprovals of marriage between such couples. The public often inflicts hostile and curious public stares at such mixed couples when they walk together down the street.
In “Love In Black and White,” Mark and Gail Mathabane “explore the power of love over prejudice and taboo.” The authors explore the contemporary dynamics of love and marriage between a black man and a white woman. The intriguing twist to the exploration is that the couple uses the development of their own relationship as the foundation for the exploration of interracial marriage.
Mark Mathabane is author of the best-seller “ Kaffir Boy”. He grew up in the racially segregated harsh urban ghettoes of racist South Africa under extreme deprivation and poverty. His early childhood memories are of seeing his parents humiliated by white police raids at four in the morning in his ghetto shack to enforce apartheid Pass Laws.
Gail came from an opposite background. She is white and grew up in some of the most exclusively white Mid-Western suburbs of the United States. When the two most unlikely individuals met in college, they fell in love. The book is an inspiring saga of their love, the anguish and struggle against public and family disapproval, marriage, and devotion to each other and their continuing battle against racial prejudice and taboo. As a bonus, the authors at the end of the book explore mixed race couples in general and societal prejudice against them.
The book is a very refreshing and valuable perspective on the rather negatively
stereotyped marriages between white women and black men. The book debunks the traditional negative and for a long time racist psychoanalytic perspectives of such marriages. For example, Gail exposes the traditional rather widely accepted views about such marriages and expresses her frustration.
“So-called experts on interracial relationships had a plethora of absurd theories and explanations about white-black man marriages. The woman was too fat and ugly to get a white man, was acting out against a racist parent, had already been ostracized by white society, or had such low self-esteem that she felt like trash that belonged in a black ghetto.
The black man was denying his skin color attempting to be white. He was trying to avenge himself against white oppression by defiling a white woman. The children of such mixed up marriages suffered the cruel fate of being caught, trapped between two worlds, rejected by both races, traumatized by a perpetual identity crisis. Anger and disgust made me slam shut each book I read. Where was the human story? Why were mixed couples constantly analyzed? When will they finally talk openly about whom they really are and what they truly feel?” (p. 116)
Gail and Mark Mathabane contend and reconcile with many contradictory and controversial issues. They express views on children of mixed race being forced to choose between being white or black, stresses of a mixed couple adjusting to public American celebrity life especially after the popularity of the book “Kaffir Boy”, racially mixed marriages in South Africa and much more.
This book adds a very valuable and unique perspective on interracial marriages especially between white women and black men. Because of its largely non-academic approach, the book is able to effectively persuade the reader to reexamine the traditional prejudices and stereotypes that seem to be so deeply entrenched in society. The book really convinces the reader that interracial couples are just normal humans who fall in love for normal reasons and not for some deep sordid ulterior motive requiring deep and complex psychoanalysis. Interracial couples though have to fight against so much more just to maintain their marriage and family.
I strongly recommend this book for readers of all races. The book does not preach against racism and at best it will give you an intriguing peek into what may really go on in those interracial couples’ minds and relationships. This book is also suitable as a supplementary text for contemporary racial and ethnic studies, studies of the family, and psychology of love and intimacy, modem gender studies, and cross-cultural studies.
*****Mark and Gatl Mathabane. Love In Black and White: The Triumph of Love Over Prejudice and Taboo, New York: HarpetCollins Publishers. 1992. 262 pp. 20 US dollars, Hardcover.