Sherlin Barends. Picture: Supplied
Sherlin Barends. Picture: Supplied

OPINION: Wayde and Chesney a shining example of positive coloured relationships

By Sherlin Barends Time of article published Nov 5, 2017

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Is my fondness for Chesney Campbell just skin-deep? Or is it significant that Wayde van Niekerk’s wife is coloured? Yes, no, maybe?

I remember perfecting the “C” pattern in Grade 1. So much so that my teacher, Mrs Carstens, asked if my mother did my homework. Two years later the wave-like motif was upgraded, when Mrs Daniels taught us how to write in cursive. These days I hardly write by hand and I can’t remember the last time I wrote something in cursive, but patterns will always fascinate me.

What do golf star Tiger Woods, Kardashian-esque Lamar Odom, Springbok Siya Kolisi, cricketer JP Duminy and musician Emo Adams have in common? Besides the fact that they are talented at what they do, they are or were all married to white women. In South Africa we have many examples of this.

To be clear, I’m not simply talking about interracial relationships, but more specifically about coloured or black public figures (both male and female) who have settled down with white partners. I just happened to mention these four.

“If one’s an incident, two’s a coincidence, and three’s a pattern, what’s four?” asked a friend of mine in response. I later Googled the fitting phrase, only to learn that he was quoting a line from a TV series, Teen Wolf of all things.

Record-breaker Wayde van Niekerk is the latest to break this pattern. He proposed to his long-time girlfriend Chesney Campbell in December last year. Last weekend they tied the knot.

By now we’ve all seen the black and white photo of the newly wed couple, where Wayde stares lovingly at his beautiful bride. “Can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. So blessed to start this next adventure with the girl of my dreams! I love you!” reads the caption of the wedding picture he posted on Twitter.

I don’t think my fondness for Chesney Campbell is skin-deep. Needless to say there’s a lot more to the 25-year-old sociology lecturer than the colour of her skin. She’s not just smart, but funny too. Her new surname meant that she was in need of a new Instagram handle. “Chesney van Niekerk is already taken. My only other option is ‘Chesney from the church’,” she jokingly wrote on one of her social media posts.

Still, I do think it’s significant that Wayde van Niekerk’s wife is coloured. We don’t have enough positive examples of healthy coloured relationships and marriages. Female-headed households, absent fathers and fights over maintenance payments are commonplace. Many children in search of safety and stability are susceptible to gangs, as they can resemble a family structure, albeit an unhealthy one.

Wayde’s choice in a life partner doesn’t change any of this. But his choice does set an important example.

It’s important for young coloured boys and girls to grow up having examples of what love between two coloured individuals looks like in their homes, communities and also public spheres.

It’s time to change the narrative and alter negative stereotypes about people of colour. Yes, it’s crucial that we address issues of crime, gangsterism and poverty that plague our communities, but it’s essential that we also highlight and tell positive stories. Like the 11-year-old boy from Macassar, Amr Salie, who published his first book and South Africa’s youngest black female cardiologist, Dr Viwe Mtwesi, who both made headlines this week.

Not forgetting Wayde marrying his beautiful, educated, coloured wife. It’s refreshing that Wayde chose to grow old with someone who has walked a path with him for the last five years, meanwhile still paving her own way.

Where I come from, upward social mobility (from ghetto to glam) is mostly gained by one of two ways: you were smart enough to get a bursary, university degree and a well-paying job or you were a talented athlete and play sport for a living.

I’ve been around enough braai fires and boardrooms to know how some of these “movers” talk. The idea is that you move out of your hood, buy a car and house and if you’re really successful, you find a white mate.

Love is love. It may come in different packages, but it’s love. When it comes to matters of the heart, things like race, class and sexuality shouldn’t matter. Wayde and Chesney’s fairy-tale wedding is testament to this.

On their guest list they had Siya Kolisi and his expecting wife Rachel (she’s pregnant with their second child, a girl) and Caster Semenya and her stylish wife, Violet.

Love wins. There’s another pattern for you.

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