As the world becomes a tiny village with social media linking two people from either ends of the globe, more people are traveling overseas because of marriage. Many young people willing to take a risk want to break free from the myth that only those who get married from the same culture have stable marriages. Others just want to be different. The result is an increase in interracial marriages.
Gone are the days when there were a few white men or women who lived in the high-brow ends of our communities, married to neighbours we knew or saw from a distance. Now everywhere you go – in the malls, at schools, even in the local market – you can find children of these relationships who are struggling with their real identity. Differing perspectives will cause some to look down on them, others to wish they had those lovely kids, and more to wonder how these children of mixed heritage will integrate into society.
When we were growing up, our parents ensured we spoke our local languages, or at least tried to keep up with a few words, and understood the nuances of our culture. We either took a bow or knelt down to greet those older than us. We ate local dishes for dinner around a communal table as dad or mum shared a tale or two about the village life. Today, most kids know little or nothing about their roots. With many of them going to schools that promote British or American culture, we’re deliberately paying for them to learn about other cultures while disregarding our own.
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You never know what you are losing until one day you realize that your kids are ten and eight years old, respectively, and they know neither the name of your village nor your middle name.
Some parents aren’t proud of where they come from. They think their background isn’t the best and don’t want this carried on to the next generation. They’d rather say they are British than from a village in Ouagadougou. Our ancestors gave their children names depending on the circumstances during the birth of the child, but many parents now have abandoned their local names and prefer to give only English names to their kids.
Interracial marriages can be great for our continent: other people can learn about our culture, there’s constant migration and hopefully investment in our economies as well. You can’t really stop people from getting married to people from other non-African countries, anyhow, but we can collectively decide that our culture and tradition would be passed on to our kids. You don’t have to visit your village every month or cook a traditional meal every day, but you can begin a step at a time to give something to your kids they will never forget.
You can buy books about your country and read them along with your child. Take them to local museums and tourist attractions. Plan to attend local festivals and participate actively. Kids will be excited about this. Never think they are too young to understand. What a twelve-year-old child knew half a century ago is what a four-year-old child knows today. Let’s also put pressure on our schools to teach our kids about our country.
Most of the time, the non-African spouse doesn’t really care if his or her kids speak the language or learn the traditions. They just want a happy family. Many more are silent on the issue, leaving a generation of kids who are neither here nor there.
It’s easier when you’re in an interracial marriage and you’re still on the African soil. Overseas, there’s really nothing to stimulate the cultural learning process unless you live in community with others from your home country. A regular trip back home would help the kids understand their roots.
If we do our jobs as parents while our kids are younger and more receptive, we’ll see them take on the dream to make Africa great again. On the other hand, if we paint a hopeless picture about our continent, they will hold on tightly to another identity they can’t truly call their own. It’s up to us to integrate different cultures in our marriages and help our kids celebrate the perfect blend of possibilities within.