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A little over a week ago, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia for doing what many of us have done at least once: sat down without ordering anything.


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My father, a bookish black man old enough to be my grandfather, grew up in Texas while it was still a segregated state. As soon as he could, he got himself far enough away from there to cover the walls of his study with photographs of his travels to destinations as exotic as Poland and Mali. As far back as I can remember, he was insistent that the one place in the world truly worth going was Paris. BeingI accepted the assertion at face value—mostly because of the way his eyes lit up when he spoke of this city that was nothing but two syllables for me—I assumed he must have lived there once or been very close to someone who had. From my father, then, I grew up with the sense that the capital of France was less a physical place than an invigorating idea that stood for many things, not least of which were wonder, sophistication, and even freedom.

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Apartheid, South Africa's government-sanctioned segregation of races, officially ended in when Nelson Mandela became president. Approval of interracial marriage among the mixed-race and Indian communities actually fell in the 12 years to At the same time, the of interracial marriages is increasing. At first Ithra didn't know what had happened. They are also free to love whomever they want, at least in theory.

The news came with a 'they'," Rayana exclaims. It will be the first time his black family and her Asian-origin family have met. At school, because we lived in what was known as a coloured area and there weren't a lot of blacks around us She repeats some of the things she had told me earlier, but as Rayana finishes, Tumelo picks her up on a phrase she has used.

This generation will resolve it.

So, you’re a white man who wants to date a black woman…

And that means not compromising on eating chicken feet and tripe, or drinking alcohol, in front of people who may not be used to it. His girlfriend Ithra and her family are coming over for Saturday lunch. Cape Town! Ithra had a liberal upbringing.

Modjadji throws her arms around Rayana.

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Earlier in the week, when I met Tumelo and Ithra near Rosebank mall in Johannesburg, they'd explained that two pivotal things were about to happen: they were going to find out whether they would get junior doctor placements together in Cape Town - and they were going to introduce their parents. She's texted to say they are minutes away. But it's strange, when it comes to your own family, then it's a different scenario and you have to accept It's the Rainbow Nation. She's spent the morning preparing the mopane worms, tripe and chicken's feet. Approval rates among white people rose ificantly over this period, though they are still more negative than others about interracial marriage.

It started with a mass exodus from the wider family Whatsapp group.

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That would have been unheard of. But Blasian is a growing social media tag used by black or Asian people in relationships with one another - sometimes documenting the specific challenges they face. When Granny Washiela says "Rainbow Nation" she raises her eyebrows and smiles ironically.

Her mother, Rayana, had actively opposed and organised against apartheid. It's a big day. How could we be part of such a cruel and unfair system - and you allowed it? While she has always been supportive of her daughter dating a black guy, something suddenly feels different.

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It's late and Ithra and Tumelo, both 24, are both at the end of their final year of medical school at Wits University in Johannesburg. So what are the replacements?

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At the home of Ithra's grandparents, Washiela and Ashraf, a livestream from Mecca plays on the TV in the background and large calligraphy prints of verses of the Koran are framed on the walls. Ithra, Rayana and her husband and Ithra's sisters arrive holding flowers and deep pans containing Asian food: biryani and tandoori chicken. The tiered levels of apartheid meant that Indian and mixed-race people were given preferential treatment, compared to black people. But it was never a moment. She's also bought halal meat especially.

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His wife asks me to sit next to her on the leather couch as I ask why they haven't spoken to their granddaughter for months. He's wearing a casual T-shirt and jeans, but for once he's looking agitated. With a black guy. It sits differently.

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Would it have made a difference if Ithra was with a white guy instead of a black guy? As she's describing how she campaigned against apartheid, alongside black activists, there's a sudden screaming from upstairs. Ithra's family come from Cape Malay, a community of mixed-Asian ethnicities who have been in South Africa for generations.

If you were surprised to hear about two black men arrested at starbucks, you haven't been paying attention

If it's interracial, it's a person of colour with a white person. Ithra and her four sisters mill around in the background, speaking over each other as they cut fruit, boil tea and flip pancakes, in an almost synchronised dance that enables them to avoid bumping into each other. Born in Kenya to an Indian father, Ithra moved back to her mother's home country - to Johannesburg - at the age of six. There's no way she could have been allowed to bring home a man of another race she says.

I always encouraged the girls to be open about everything. Later, Tumelo's father Phuti - a quiet man who has remained silent for most of the lunch - speaks up with advice for the Born Frees at the table. Ithra and Tumelo have received the news that they have secured junior doctor placements in the same hospital - over 1,km away in Cape Town.

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It will never go away. I never interacted with Indians until very late in my life, when I was working. It had been almost three months. At least black and white people in relationships with each other are both likely to come from Christian families, while in Blasian relationships religion is added to other cultural barriers. Dating and her sisters - who have now made their way from her bedroom where they were huddled over a computer waiting for the junior doctor posting - worry that their mother's honesty about race may be received badly, especially on social media, when this story is published.

It's where she decided to stay for university and where she would meet Tumelo, who was born in the city. There might be a future between Ithra and Tumelo, and that's maybe what it is," she hesitates. As the families sit down to eat, Tumelo's brother recites a Christian prayer. Attitudes to interracial relationships are an indicator of how far South Africans have travelled in terms of integration and addressing prejudices, according to a report from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation IJRbut the data suggests that there has been little progress.

According to the census, three-quarters of South Africa's population is black, and Asians make up just 2. And there is another factor. As his mother adds garlic powder to the mopane worms frying on the stove behind him, Tumelo fidgets in his swivel chair. I remember being so angry with my parents and my grandparents for not doing something about it. Grandpa Ashraf interjects, "No, that is being racist, actually. And now it's a relationship. Then the conversation s, and soon it turns Haven those not at the table - namely, Ithra's grandparents. The whites one side. I think it is a post-apartheid thing, people have a hierarchy that was built up in their head.

Since the end of apartheid - and even for some years before that - young South Africans have been free to date whoever they want. Would they prefer Ithra to be dating someone of her own culture? Males gonna get roasted! Rayana moved back to Johannesburg from Kenya black a single mother and raised her daughters alone until she remarried.

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Throughout their friendship both have had other relationships, and both have dated outside their races before - but both feel that they received fewer stares when they had white partners. Ithra's sister Taleah emerges at the bottom of the stairs.

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It wasn't their choice not to talk, they say, it was Ithra's. Every generation has its own problem.

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But relationships between black people and the country's Asian population remain quite rare - and the approval of parents, and grandparents, is not a given. It was also the year the couple were born - which makes them part of the so-called Born Free generation. And I think this generation, this is their problem - they'll sort it out. A study by North-West University in Mahikeng showed that in only one marriage in involved people of different races, but by it had become about one in That's 0. Grandpa Ashraf, in a wheelchair, wears a traditional Islamic thobe and cap.

My parents wouldn't have stepped into a black person's home. You're not going to get, like, pizza. How open am I really? They became friends almost immediately in their first year and started going out in their third year. She wants her children to have that freedom, though she doesn't want them to abandon their culture. Relationships between black and Asian South Africans remain uncommon, though. Paula Quinsee, a relationship coach from Johannesburg, says Blasian couples face particular challenges. But not everyone was ready for her relationship with Tumelo.

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Actually in my view things got a little bit worse than what we thought," he says. It's the day of the big meeting and Tumelo's mum, Modjadji, has gone all out. When we met, Ithra hadn't spoken to her grandmother Washiela since that moment. Then she adds: "You know we were very racist, I am going to be honest with you, because we come from apartheid and that stigma is always there. The rest of the population divides more or less equally into white and mixed-race.

Until now Ithra and Tumelo have lived at home, supervised by their families. The coloureds one side and the blacks one side. But soon they will be moving away together to a new city. Now when you have that kind of purpose, of course I'm going to have kids that I've raised that are free of that reality but I'm also human and I come from a certain community so it does go deeper.

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