Sunday, 19 July 2015

You can't hide your love from me

Famous for a moment. A room full of people raise their gaze to look at my wife and I as we stand up and move through the food court at OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg. 

I stand in front of people and engage with them for a living, so I get to experience all kinds of responses to my accent, appearance, behaviour and words. I feel like a good judge of whether people are warming to me or not. But just add a dash of paranoia and that's the reality of what my perception is like. 

Of course I can't properly judge what the hearts of 18 sets of eyes have concluded regarding the phenomena of an attractive black woman and a bald white guy hanging around together in an apparently non-platonic fashion. When it's just one set of eyes darting back to their friends with little mean spirited reports of the odd couple 'over there', I get the message pretty quickly. And the message I get is that those eyes believe that it is still 1984 and they will live forever. 

Multiply the number of eyes, though, and the picture is muddied. Most people are probably just curious, but oh can they stare. On the whole, Black people appear quite happy at the sight of us. Apart from the guy in Nashville who chased me down the street asking me how I had acquired an African Queen for myself.   

Sometimes the staring gets on my nerves but I maybe there's another way of looking at it. The thing is, by the grace of God my heart has developed a greater capacity for love at this point than at any time past. I am married to a funny, intelligent, beautiful, moral woman whom I deeply love. I know what it's like to be inside this love but I don't know what it looks like on the outside. Maybe it's a kind of troubling vision for love starved people. Follow the rabbit hole all the way done into prejudice and judging and what do you find? A lonely broken child who can't escape the confines of a broken nature and a broken world. 

When white loves black and black loves white in a domain where it socially virtually illegal, and when that love is obvious, I can imagine this creating a kind a temporary hell in the hearts of some. It's perhaps like being smacked in the face with the reality that what they may most deeply desire is apparently being experienced by people they regard as deviant and wrong. In a smaller way, maybe it's similar to what the Nazi's felt watching Jessie Owens win gold in Berlin. How could this not result in hatred when what they believed became so obviously untrue? 

I think I'm gonna try and be more understanding. I'm not gonna hide my love under a bush but maybe I'll try to refrain telling anyone else they have an apartheid-era mindset. If they wanna stare, may their gaze lead them into the black hole with so a clear a vision of spiritual poverty that they might turn and find the only one who can break down walls of judgment and self-hatred. A paring back that creates the space for renewal. Let deficit be turned to surplus by the grace of the one does not run out of grace during load-shedding. The Nazarene.