You will have to read this portion carefully and between the lines to understand what I am trying to say. Make sure that you do not draw any rash conclusions and misunderstand what I am about to say.
I do not like the blame game because it gives too much power to other people and circumstances that are surrounding you. The result is that you become helpless and trapped in your circumstances because you have relinquished control and power to outside forces.
I love my parents dearly and do not fault them for raising me the way they did. I believe that God uses everything in our lives if we allow Him to. That is why we are admonished not to hate, to pray for our enemies, love them, and to forgive. This is a tough call, but it has more to do with us and where we are going than the people that have hurt us and the terrible things they had done to us.
When I was growing up, my parents told me and my six other siblings that we should not get married to a foreign woman when the time to get married came. A foreign woman was any woman who was not from the Bamumbu ethnic group. It did not matter if the woman was from Cameroon, my country of birth, or outside of Cameroon. Can you imagine what this means? That other girls born in different ethnic groups in Cameroon may not be good enough for us to get married to.
Before you cast stones on my parents for daring to think like this, I want you to understand that my parents are not the only ones who shared such a sentiment.
In Cameroon, inter-ethnic marriages are not commonplace because the Bassas, Ewondos, Bamelike, Bakossi, Byangi, Mohgahmos, Balyongas, Baynagis, Balong, Bafos, Bakundus, Fulanis, Hausas, Boros, etc. only want to get married to their own.
The few who break these rules are frowned upon. In some cases, families will threaten to disown their children. If you go to Nigeria, the Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulani, Ibibio, Amasari, Ifik, etc. also prefer to get married to each other. This issue is not limited to West Africa. If you go to East Africa, you will encounter it, even in central Africa and Southern Africa, and Northern Africa as well.
I dare to make a generalization that in most parts of the world, people from different ethnic groups find it difficult to intermarry, especially when the ethnic groups have a lot of differences.
My parents, just like many other parents who prohibit their children from marrying foreign women, have the best interest of their children at heart. They understand from past experience that interethnic marriage requires more work because of the differences. In some cases, there have been past inter-ethnic wars and the wounds have not healed completely, making it a little difficult for both parties to be united through marriage because marriage is usually not just between two individuals.
Instead of focusing on the challenges that the married couples will face, the parents cross the line when they start using stereotypes and unfounded bias to discourage their children from marrying out of their ethnic groups.
You will be shocked at some of the things parents will tell their children and the great lengths they will go to ensure that their son or daughter does not marry someone from a different ethnic group.
Parents paint the “foreigners” in such a way that this toxin has killed many budding love relationships between people from different ethnic groups. Most parents pride themselves on their language and cultural heritage at the expense of everything else.
Why is it that when a “white family” prohibits their own child from getting married to a person from a different ethnic background, it is blown out of proportion, and racism is invoked?
Are the concerns of the African parent in any way different? Do some people think what is good for us is not good for others? Do you see how discrimination is a heart issue and found anywhere you have people? If these attitudes are not checked, they will continue to divide the human race.
Some are going to argue that because discrimination is coming from a Caucasian, it is more egregious. I will say whoever thinks like this is refusing to remove the log of wood in their own eye and focusing on the tiny piece of wood in the other person’s eye. If you think that disowning and shunning a child because he or she got married to somebody from a different ethnic group is justifiable, you need to wake up.
When I left home and went to the University, it occurred to me that there are subcultures and people who live in a certain city share a lot in common, even if they are from different ethnic groups. Therefore, insisting that one must get married to a woman from one’s ethnic group did not make sense.
In the past, most of the African ethnic groups were also independent kingdoms. Therefore, getting married across ethnic lines was almost like an international marriage. As I already mentioned, some of these different ethnic groups frequently fought each other, making it difficult for them to intermarry. The issue was that people did not travel far from their place of birth, and everybody remained within their particular ethnic group.
Colonization changed everything, so you will assume. All these different ethnic groups were grouped together to form a country. This led to the emergence of a new economy.
For example, plantation agriculture brought people from different ethnic groups to work together. Cities soon sprang up around these plantations, but the ethnic divisions did not die overnight. All these different earth groups still maintained their languages, cultures, and ways of doing things.
It must be the lingering fear and mistrust of each other that has prevented total integration.
Some of the children born under these new circumstances developed a third culture, and some are intermarrying, but it is not yet the norm. People still prefer to get married to their “own” for various reasons.
I decided to go the other way and got married to a “foreign woman” because we are all human and are not defined by our culture. Love transcends food, clothing, dance, songs, and whatever cultural heritage we may be having. We have sacrificed certain things because we are from two different ethnic groups. For example, we speak English and Pidgin because these are languages that both of us are fluent in, but we cannot speak the languages that belong to our respective ethnic groups.
After getting married, we moved to the United States of America, and for pragmatic reasons, we have encouraged our children to learn Spanish as a second language because they will use it someday. I had a call from my mum as I was writing this page. She was greeting our first son in the Mundani language, and my son was clueless. She asked him if he did not know what to say, and my son said I had not taught him the language. Well, my son is correct. I have not taught him the language not because there is anything wrong with the language, but because of the sacrifices that one has to make when you migrate to a new country and have a lot of things pulling you left and right. If my wife and I spoke the same language, they would have easily learned it, but we already knew when we were getting married that the English language was common to both of us and it was going to take precedence.
We should not allow fear and ignorance to drive our decision-making process, even when it comes to something as important as marriage.
It is important to focus on the fact that the more different your backgrounds are, the more you will have to work on certain areas of the marriage to look for common ground. You don’t use unfounded stereotypes and invoke fear of the unknown to discourage people from different ethnic backgrounds from getting married.