My return home to Nosy Be, Madagascar, after 35 years, was both life changing and devastating.
We have been embraced by so many people in Nosy Be Madagascar. It’s my home. It’s where I come from. For the most part, we’ve felt comfortable as an interracial couple.
We’ve made connections with amazing people that will hopefully last a lifetime. We’ve seen kindness and the true beauty of what a community should be. We’ve seen happiness, even within poverty, and it’s humbled us to the core. I’m forever changed by the experience of returning home after 35 years, in so many ways. It’s been an unforgettable experience.
I wanted my husband and son to see firsthand where my roots come from. We wanted our son to see where the Black part of him comes from. Not just in pictures—We wanted him to really live it. And for me, I needed to reconnect with my roots. This was important for me to experience as a grown woman, as a wife (go Swirl life!) and as the mother of a biracial son.
There’s something that I have been truly struggling with for weeks. I’ve been torn about whether to write about it.
But as a Black woman, a woman in love with a white man, and the mother of a biracial child, I realized that things only change in the world when we don’t stay silent about the hard stuff. So I decided to speak up—Not just for me, but for other interracial couples that could potentially experience what I went through in Nosy Be.
It needs to be known. So, I need to talk about the experiences I had with sexism and racism in Nosy Be.
My first incident was with racism, specific to my being in an interracial relationship. At a well known Resort, the Andilana Beach Resort, I was refused the entrance simply because I was Black.
A week prior , my husband had been able to go through the hotel, to get to the pool, with our 3 year-old son. Our son played in the pool for an hour or so.
A week later, when I decided to join them, I was refused entrance, questioned if I was Malagasy, if I had a key, if they were really my family.
I replied that I was of Malagasy origin, but I live in Los Angeles (in French), and that they were my husband and son.
What they did not know is that I understand Malagasy, and the guard asked another person, through a walkie-talkie, if “the Black woman” can go in. To which the person on the other end said, “I can see her, the Vaza (white man) can stay in with the baby, but not her."
I decided not to make a scene and told my husband to stay—Our son wanted to play in the pool. But my husband went straight in, to the reception area, and complained about the incident.
He spoke to a manager who was very rude. She didn’t even apologize. Instead she made excuses as to why I was refused entry. When she asked if he wanted to stay anyway, my husband said, “No,” and she just walked away.
I reviewed the hotel on trip advisor, but my comment was flagged several times. I was just giving a heads up to other families, so they wouldn’t have to go through the same thing. Flagging the comment isn’t the the right way to handle this situation—Instead they should own up to the mistake, and ensure people that they’re taking steps to make sure something, like what happened to my family, won’t happen again.
I was shocked to experience racism at such a well known resort—A specific brand of racism that targets interracial couples. Talking to locals around the island, I realized that it’s common practice at this particular resort to refuse people of color.
It was truly heartbreaking. And because it happened in my country, a place so dear to my heart, it made it that much harder to talk about. Even to my own family.
My second encounter with sexism and racism, was at a hospital were my son was admitted with a small emergency in the middle of the night.
When it was time to be discharged in the morning, I decided to take care of the payment as my husband was taking care of our son, getting him up and ready to leave.
A Malagasy male nurse came with me to the entrance of the hospital to pick up our shoes (as no one is allowed to wear shoes in the hospital). We took the elevator to the second floor, where the exit was. He asked me to leave the shoes at the exit of the hospital. He then sent me back to the entrance, and told me to leave.
At that point, I wasn’t sure if it was a misunderstanding. He kept telling me to leave by waving his hand, as if to shoo me out.
When I looked at him and said I was trying to pay, he was shocked. He said,” Isn’t the white man paying? And you are finished with your job?”
Then it clicked, he thought I was his prostitute. He was sending me through the back, without shoes, as if I was done with my “job".
Needless to say, I had a few words with him, which he did not appreciate. And My husband was quite furious.
Later that day, when we contacted the hospital, they apologized, but we never heard back with a follow up, as promised.
I was deeply hurt that week. If I were a white woman, walking in with her white husband and child, I would’ve had no problem... Or if I were a Black woman with a Black man for that matter.
There’s an underlying issue at play. Young girls are sometimes being forced into prostitution, sometimes by their own families, as the demand for prostitutes is high with tourism. And a lot of Malagasy young girls and women feel like they don’t have a choice. They see white men as a way out of poverty.
They look at me and they don’t see a strong black woman, that has worked her way up without having to use her body, who is in love with a husband that sees her as an equal in every way. They see a black woman that made it out of poverty.
I am not sure what the answers are, but that day I vowed to help women in Madagascar see hope—Beyond finding a white man savior. One woman at a time, I hope to create change— To show them the true mentality of men that view Black women as an objects to purchase and exploit.