Rejected on the colour of my skin April 2, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Hot, Racism, Tradition.
For the last few weeks, Tjono, our ECO-C caretaker, has been joking that he would like to marry me. I have questioned his intentions and reasons for wanting to marry me each time he brings it up. A few weeks ago he got me rather riled by saying that he wanted “to marry a white lady because they are more clever than us blacks”. I was upset, astonished and furious to hear such drivel, and immediately embarked on a rant about racial equality, that there are plenty of stupid white people, that blacks aren’t stupid but it’s down to a whole host of factors including the inequality in distribution of educational resources and opportunities. This was another example of the sad perceptions which are upheld many years after
Independence and the supposed outlawing of apartheid.
Back to the point though, Tjono’s reasons for wanting to marry me generally come down to the fact that I am white. Often I get asked out or proposed to by men in the village or in
Windhoek (especially taxi drivers), who immediately fall into my bad favour by saying that they “want a white girlfriend/wife”. Tjono’s answers always entertain me. He often cites that he learns a lot from me, that I teach him well and help him to improve his English, and if he married me, then he could learn even more. Or that he wants to travel, and by marrying me, he would have a greater capacity to do this. One time he even said he wanted to marry me because he was curious as to what colour our children would come out.
When I arrived this week, Tjono announced that if he could not find a Herero lady to marry him, he would marry me; I would be his back-up wedding plan. Lucky me. I said that it would depend on whether he could afford me – I’d be worth more cows that he currently has.
Then Wednesday afternoon, we were sat under the tree, making our plan for the next day, when he reached over and poked my arm. The skin was white when he removed his finger and quickly flushed to a glowing shade of red. After a morning of showing the Grade 7s and 8s around the centre without sunscreen, I was very burnt.
“You are burnt. Your skin is red. I cannot marry you”, he said, disappointedly watching as I inspected my ghastly tan-lines.
“If we marry, we would move to my village. There the sun is very strong. It is very hot. You would not last a day. You will not be my wife”.
And with that, our future marriage plans were scuppered.