The Ex-Pat Factor
However, it’s not just Kenya’s Asian culture that’s seen to stick together. White Kenyans are also a social enclave – making a white and black Kenyan couple as rare as black and Asian ones.
Iain* 38 and Ruth* 37, are one such couple. They were both students at a leading Kenyan university when they bumped into each other in the school’s library, just before Christmas break. They realised that they both came from the Coast and ended up meeting again in Mombasa over the holidays. They quickly became an inseparable couple and were engaged seven months later. A year after that, just after they graduated, they tied the knot and have been happily together for the past 15 years.
But they firmly insist that the rising level of interracial relationships is made up almost entirely of ex-pats. “White Kenyans are still a very insular community,” explains Ruth. Iain adds, “It just doesn’t happen very often. White Kenyans and black Kenyans, in many ways, do not relate on a romantic level. It is not a racism issue per se. For some reason white Kenyans simply do not see Africans as a romantic option.”
While mixed couples are on the rise, and while our survey would indicate that Kenyans don’t have an issue with interracial relationships, why is it that Kenyans of different races aren’t mixing? Put directly by Iain, “I think we still have a long way to go for mixed race Kenyans to get together.”
Perhaps the stereotypes and preconceived notions manifest themselves in Kenyan society in such a way that Kenyans, growing up knowing them, avoid getting involved with other races. If that’s the case, how do interracial couples cope?
“Colour Blind: Interracial Love” continues tomorrow…
Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Destination Magazine, authored by Caitlin Nordahl.