Taking their cue from the state, the community punished the family: You could have talked to me about race, Dad. You could have checked your own whiteness.
You came to pick me up at the salon, even though I begged Mom to come instead. That was the first night you became a white man to me, Dad. I felt ashamed that we could not give each other anonymity and privacy. Treated as white by her parents and two brothers, Adriaan and Leon, she attended the Dutch Reformed Church and was reared as a God-fearing Afrikaner superior to blacks and "coloureds", those of mixed race. I could not ask you these questions and share these experiences with you, Dad, because you were implicated as a white man, I was implicated as a black girl, and I felt like we could not speak from these places. Black salons were in the business of making black hair beautiful. You could have acknowledged that you were the husband of a black woman and the father of mixed children and considered the implications of this. It is your turn. You should have been part of the conversations I had with Mom about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. What could you have done? Dad, I know this is hard to hear, so please bear with me. I watched you date white woman after white woman, marry a white woman and have a white baby. Dad, since then you have flickered. She entered the world in , a beautiful baby by all accounts, who could be expected to grow up in a close-knit family amid mines of gold and forests of pine. Where do we go from here? I am so accustomed to holding fistfuls of aching, rambunctious words around you, Dad. You are swallowed by whiteness and become racially inaccessible to me the moment my race comes to the fore. The wheel has turned full circle. I wish you had taught me another word for white. Abraham Laing appealed in vain against Sandra's reclassification as coloured and she ended up in a boarding school km from home, lonely, a bedwetter. You are the Dad who stayed up late on school nights with me and baked pie while we listened to Tracy Chapman and I talked incessantly about books you have never read. He threatened to shoot first me then himself if I ever put my foot over his threshold again. Dad, I wanted to ask you if you left Mom because she was black. Mostly I try just to forget the past. Sandra's father wept and tried to explain to her about the laws which said she would have to attend a school for black or coloured children. You are the white father of a black daughter. Dad, you are a white man.
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