Racism gave Jamaican man a heart attack (Part II)
André Brown’s wife tells her story
This is the conclusion of a story on the trials of a biracial family living in the United States.
FOR Rita Brown, a white Danish woman who is married to black Jamaican André Brown, the racist attacks on her family and herself have only served to strengthen her resolve.
Coming from a more liberal background than she has now found in America’s deep south, Brown was given a baptism of fire when she decided to live there with her husband and raise their biracial children. She is now convinced that large swathes of US society are far less tolerant of interracial marriages than her homeland of Denmark, where people are less hostile towards people of colour.
Brown has been the victim of abuse from both sides of the racial divide. She has been called ‘Nigger lover’, ‘white trash’. She has been spat at, refused service, heckled, and has faced many other forms of race discrimination because she fell in love with and married a black man.
In fact, Brown told the Sunday Observer that she has never fully warmed to white Americans.
“I don’t socialise with white people in America. Once I started to integrate in American society, I have never been able to relate to white people in America because they are not me. They often compare me to being a white American but I have to explain to people that I’m not. I was born and raised in Europe. I come with a mind that is built on a different kind of foundation. I was raised without racism,” she declared.
The sharp contrast between the mindset among most people in her homeland in comparison with the US gave her a jolt when she decided to live in North America.
“They look at you and they judge you from who you are with, how you speak, how you are living, how you dress. To begin with I thought that people would just understand that I fell in love with a man who is a different colour than me and that was that. But it’s not. It doesn’t matter where we go, we don’t quite fit in,” Brown said.
At their home in Windermere, a predominantly white community in Orlando, Florida, the Browns have been the target of vicious racial attacks. The couple have woken up to find ‘Nigger lover’ and ‘Nigger’ painted on their home and cars, dead animals on their lawn, and have had to endure their car being vandalised on more than one occasion.
The viciousness of the attacks took a toll on her husband who suffered a heart attack last year.
But while Rita Brown is trying to show steely resolve, she is aware of the ever-present danger of racists taking their bigotry to a higher level and is very protective of her children.
“You can’t sleep at night because you don’t know who did it. Your fear, is it going to escalate? Are they going to do something worse than what they did? Everytime you open your front door you don’t know who did this so therefore you don’t know who is watching you. It’s a deep-seated fear and you foremost want to protect the children,” she said.
Even a simple trip to the supermarket reminds the Browns that they live in a society which has yet to come to grips with interracial commingling.
“I am standing in the supermarket, talking to my husband and we put the groceries up on the belt, the cashier rings them up and we are standing together, and he may hand the credit card to the cashier and she looks at me and she goes, ‘Ma’am?’ and I say ‘Yes?’, and she says, ‘you gonna have to pay for these,’ and I am looking at my husband, he is reaching out his choice of payment and I have to say, ‘he is paying for it’. They don’t connect the dots that we’re together,” Brown said.
But Black people can be just as racially offensive and the Brown’s had to endure racism from African-Americans when they lived in a predominantly black community in New Jersey.
The racism was sometimes directed at their children.
Sometimes, she said, the black parents would instruct their children to refrain from playing with the ‘white’ children, which is how they referred to their kids.
However, the Brown’s have made sure to teach their children what they consider to be the right way to live and how to guard themselves against racial taunts.
“I tell them they are a mixture of their father and myself and they are brown. In the end they are taught to be a good person and to know when people try to taunt them they should know that those people have limits. They are not intelligent and are a waste of their time,” Rita Brown explained.
Even though they are being treated as outcasts in the community where they now reside, the couple has no plans of moving.
“We can’t just put our tails between our legs and run. We could move but you don’t know what will happen when you do,” she said.
Black women especially take offence when a black man gets married to a white woman and Rita Brown told of times when she was targeted by black women during her stint in New Jersey.
She, however, had high praises for Jamaica’s treatment of herself and her family.
“Jamaicans are different. They come up to you and shake your hand and want to know where you are from. Jamaicans are very friendly. I have never experienced racism in Jamaica,” she said.