Already she had been fired from one job.
"Bad for the company's image," was her boss' explanation.
Her sister's husband would not allow her to bring her boyfriend, John, to their house.
"The caretaker might see John and throw us out of our flat," was what her brother-in-law told her.
Her friends in the apartment across the hall asked her to please not visit.
"John's skin is too swarthy," one explained bluntly.
Her father refused to allow her to bring John to the house.
"How could my daughter be so low as to go out with anyone who even looks like John?" was his response.
But for Celeste Cross, all that was nothing compared to the police breakin.
She tells the story in her own words:
"Saturday night, a few weeks ago before John and I went out we left a none on the door saying when we would be back.We got home around 3 a.m. and we had brought back three friends with us. We chatted for a while in the living room until two of our friends left. The other, who had had a bit too much to drink, stayed over. John and I had a hell of a fight about that and I went into my room, turned off the light, got into bed and went to sleep. John was sleeping in the living room because of the fight."
She had already fallen asleep, says Cross, when suddenly she heard a terrible noise. "I heard this row," she says, "I heard people breaking the door down. When I woke up there were policemen surrounding my bed taking pictures of me, flashing bulbs in my eyes. I didn't know what was happening. I had been sleeping. I had nothing on. I tried to pull my blanket over me. I don't know whether they got nude photos or not. I just yelled at them to get out of my room so I could get dressed. I didn't know what was going on."
According to Cross, one of the policemen yelled at her, '"What's this Indian doing in your flat?' and I said, 'He's not an Indian, he's European.' [That means 'white' in South Africa.] He said, 'Well, he looks like an Indian to me,' and I said, 'You can think what you like and say what you like but he's not.' The policeman then said, 'We'll speak about it further when we see his ID documents down at the station.' And I told him. You should have looked at his ID documents before you broke in."'
It was only after she had dressed and come into the living room that she realized that there were 14 policemen who had broken into her apartment and searched the entire place.
She and her friend John Fraser were taken to the Pretoria police station, where John had to produce his identification documents.
It turned out that Fraser was classified as white. Police Image
Celeste Cross is 22, a white Afrikaner who was actually raised in Capetown before she came to Pretoria. She is a beautiful young woman, with a round soft face, large eyes, and a coltish manner.
At the time of the interview less than a week after the incident, she was in the Pretoria hospital recovering from minor surgery.
Sitting cross-legged on her bed in a pale blue bathrobe, she was chain smoking as she spoke in rapid breathless bursts, in a tone of disbelief, whispering so that the other white women in her ward would not hear.
Fraser, she explained, is 25. His parents are both white Afrikaners, classified as white, as is his sister, They have been brought up in a white area, a small farm outside of Pretoria where Cross says he has worked outdoors all his life accounting for some of the darkness of his skin. He has been to white schools, lived as a white and has been a paratrooper in the South African Army, a position not open to blacks, Indians or coloreds.
"The police were not embarrassed at all," says Cross. "They won't even give me the photographs back. They say they're being kept for evidence. They are furious with me for talking to the newspapers. They say it makes the police look bad. At first they said they had to break down the door because we refused to open the door, but when they were told they hadn't knocked they said they had to break it down because the caretaker's key wouldn't fif. So when we told them the caretaker was out of town and they couldn't have gotten the key they said the owners of the building gave them permission to break down the door. The owners said they didn't know anything about it... They had no search warrants, they broke in, they didn't identify themselves, they took illegal photographs, and if they had caught John and me in bed and proved that he was an Indian or colored they could have prosecuted us under the Immorality Act [the law making it illegal for people of different races to have sexual relation]. But me in bed alone? It serves no purpose." 'Classification' Horrors
Practically every day in the English speaking papers in South Africa (as opposed to the Afrikaans), there are horror stories of people whose race classification has been changed.
The most famous story is the case of Sandra Lang, the young girl from a white Afrikaner family whose skin was darker than her parents' who was thrown out of school, ostracized from the community and disowned by her parents.
But even as recently as two weeks ago, Dr. Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, a member of parliament in the Nationalist Party, but of the moderate wing, was objecting to the race laws in South Africa, and publicized the case of Mr. X, a 22-year-old white Afrikaner in Capetown. He had a white birth certificate, grew up in a white community, went to white schools, did his military service in a white regiment, married a white wife and has a child who was classified white. His parents are both classified white as are his brother and his sister. He applied for his "Book of Life" or ID papers and found that someone had decided arbitrarily that he was colored and had changed his classification, based on a document found which alleged that his mother, four years before his birth, had been classified as colored.
He has appealed to no avail. Already his child has been reclassified colored. If his new classification as colored sticks he will have to give up his job, move into a colored neighborhood, with his child -- but where his wife, being white, will not be able to live. (If one parent is colored the offspring are automatically colored). He would have to give up all of his privileges as a white.
A reporter tried to interview Mr. X through van Zyl Slabbert but was told that he is terrified of having his identity known and that his wife, who is expecting their second child, is afraid that her parents would force her to leave him. Slabbert said that Mr. X at this point is suicidal.
It is only since the Nationalist Party came into power after 1948 that South Africans of any color have been required to carry race classification cards which must be shown to police upon demand at any time.
There is a race classification board which sits to determine what race a person is if their present classification is questioned.
The changes are almost invariably from white to colored although occasionally from colored to black.
The person in question is summoned for an "interview" before the board, which is not open to the press. At the interview the person is examined physically. The board looks for kinky hair, wide nostrils, thick lips, and the color of the palms. Once the person has been examined, the board meets privately to "decide" -- completely arbitrarily -- what color the person is. The rest of a person's life is determined by that one decision announced by the board. The Family Divided
Celeste Cross is particularly upset by the latest incident in her life with her friend John Fraser for several reasons.
"My mum and dad have actually split up because of this whole business," she says, "My mum and I have always been close; my dad and I never got on."
"My dad's point of view was this: His daughter had been queried about going out with an Indian. And this is terrible -- the fact that I could be so low as to go out with anybody who even looks like an Indian.
"Even the fact that he knows John is classified white and that he was a paratrooper doesn't make any difference to him. All he cares about is the fact that his daughter gets into a situation where the authorities query whether her boyfriend is white or non-white. I wrote my father and told him that even if John were an Indian it wouldn't matter to me. But I think that if John had been, my father would probably have committed suicide. My father has told me not to contact him again. He said to me as far as he was concerned I don't exist. The way I feel about it is that if I'm not good enough for him while I'm going out with John, why should I be good ebough for him if I break up with John."
After that exchange with her father, says Cross, "my mum just packed her bags and left." 'You're Indian, She's White'
It was about a year ago that Celeste Cross first met john Fraser. Cross had been in the hospital then also, and had met Fraser's sister Lizewtte. At the time she thought Lizette had rather darker skin, that she could have been an Indian but they discussed it and Lizette told her she was white.
They became friends and later Lizette introduced her to Fraser, who was on leave from the Army. At the time Fraser had been spending a lot of time outdoors and was very tan. But up until then he had never had any problems. "It never happened to him before in his life. And we've been to lots of restaurants and discos [closed to blacks, coloreds and Indians] together and never had any problems." Fraser, she says, occasionally made jokes about being Indian because of his swarthiness but never took it seriously. Then the trouble began.
Cross recalls sitting in a car on Saturday night soon after they began going out together, waiting to show another couple the way to a party. A man approached them and asked the time, leaning down into the car. Then he said to Fraser, according to Cross, 'You're not allowed to be sitting in the car with that girl. You're in South Africa now."
Fraser, says Cross, replied, "So what?"
"We have apartheid," answered the man. "You're Indian, she's white."
"Can you prove I'm Indian?" asked Fraser.
When the man answere dno, Fraser told him to move on.
"John's funny," says Cross. "He'll say he's Indian but if he tells it, he's joking. But somebody mustn't come up to him and say he's Indian. They would be insulting him. To most white people in South Africa 'Indian' and 'colored are dirty things. He was quite upset at the papers getting hold of the story. He was afraid everybody would think he was an Indian. We had terrible fights about it. I told him it can only do him good because the stories proved that he wasn't an Indian."
It was particularly hard on him, says Cross, when she was fired from her first job. She had done part-time modeling, then worked for Pretoria Hardware Wholesales. It was there that her boss said that she would either have to give John up or lose her job because "it made a bad impression for the company." "I wouldn't have lowered myself to have him show his classification card to them," she says. "Just to prove to some mentally disturbed people that they were wrong. But John felt that he had brought a lot of bad luck in my life. I told him he mustn't be silly. I told him it was him that mattered to me."
Celeste Cross is not a typical Afrikaner in her attitudes about race. She says it started when she was a child; when she heard her mother speaking harshly to their black servants it would upset her. "I always used to feel sorry for them," she says, "the way they were treated. I used to think if I were black and everybody pushed me aside, how would I feel. Most whites don't even think how they would feel if they were born with a black skin. But the way I think, it could just as well have been me."
Before moving to Pretoria, Cross attended the University of Capetown where she says she made many Indian friends. "In my mind the Indian race were much more civilized than the whites."
So, says Cross, it wouldn't have made any difference to her whether John Fraser was Indian or not.
"What difference does it make?" She says. "You're still you." Still, she is glad he turned out to be white. "This makes me realize what a problem people of different races have who fall in love. It's a hell of a problem. I was lucky John was European. I know what I would have felt like if John was classified an Indian. I couldn't have married him then.
"Even if John had been an Indian they couldn't have changed my feelings about him. It makes me so cross. In South Africa they get a certain group of little people to try and control other people's minds. If they say you mustn't fall in love with blacks they're like gods, trying to make up your mind for you. Why can't they leave people alone? I can't see the point of it. I really can't, of trying to make people do what they want them to do."
The whole episode has made Celeste Cross even more determined than before to marry John Fraser.
"I think we will get married," she says. "I'd still marry John even if I had to classify myself as an Indian. And I couldn't care less whether our children came out pitch black."
For Celeste Cross and for John Fraser, there appears to be no danger of his being reclassified. Since both his parents are classified white it would be against the law for him to be reclassified colored or Indian -- even of his skin were black.The Important thing is not what color you are, it is what color your ID card says you are.
And besides, because he is classified white, he would be breaking the immorality law if he went out with an Indian or a colored person.
So who should he go out with?
Cross giggles, despite herself. "People who look like him who are classified white."
One would think that having experienced an episode like the break-in, she and Fraser would want to leave South Africa, to move to a more tolerant climate. But no, she says, they have no intentions of doing so.
"John," says Celeste Cross, "has very strong views. He likes South Africa. And besides, why should he let people drive him out of his own country?"