American Love Stories . Featured Posts | PBS

American Love Stories

Featured Posts
DialoguesStoriesTV SeriesDig Deeper

Visit the Dialogue Archives at Web Lab

The following Featured Post comes from Relationship Group 5, Thread 3.

1. Pros and Cons to "Identity"
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 11:37 PM/EST

I'd like to start a thread talking about identity. Cicely was being forced to choose "black or white" and she said she was "Cicely" -- and a huge part of her identity is being a member of her family. What happens when you come from a broken family, or don't want to be a part of the various groups you are assigned?

I am third generation Russian Jew and I do not want to be "identified" that way. I am a human. Also, I was in a romantic relationship with another woman for five years and there was tremendous pressure for me to be "lesbian" but I never wanted to be part of that group, either. Everyone wanted me to be SOME label: bisexual or gay and I was just in love with a woman for five years -- period. I am now involved with a man.

When you are "bisexual" it is much like being of mixed race - both straights and heterosexuals are very threatened and want you to choose sides. I hate most "group identity" things because I feel like its running along with the pack -- and I feel very strongly that being yourself is more important than getting a membership card. I would love to hear some ideas on this. -- Johanna

2. Identity
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - /EST

I hear you. America is fixated on labelling and pigeon-holing folks. It is part of its history. I never thought that I would be making political statements but I think I finally understand what Malcom X and Farakkan were trying to get across. We lack a national identity. We are not "Americans" until we go abroad.

What my dean at Amherst College said what that we need to seek out like-minded others. For Cicily that was her family. Being educated, and of higher class provides one method of accessing more liberal-minded communities. The catch that I've encountered, and where Farrakan keeps harping, is that no matter what we as a race, or gender class achieve we always self-label ourselves unconsciously, instinctively. I am Guyanese, and (I finally admit) American.My family has made me confortable in those roles. My daughter is to me a "red" child. Her "people" will be her family, and those who are of multiracial/cultural descent equal to her own. My she and all of us have the strong self-image to avoid as you have the American way of perceiving race.

8. What is "American?"
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 2:58 PM/EST

When I was a teenager I traveled to Finland to visit relatives. When I met some of my cousins friends, they asked where I was from, as I didn't speak the language. I said "America." They said "North or South America?" North. They then asked "Canada, United States or Mexico?" Because of that I have a problem with identifying with "American." Unless we are native American, we can't truly say we are American. We all know we are historically from somewhere else.

I wish people would focus more on who they are as a person inside and not so much on what they look like. My son is bi-racial (black & scandinavian). He's very light skinned and has thick but straight hair. Because I'm married to an hispanic man, people assume my son is hispanic. Black people, however, know immediately that he is black. My son is proud of his entire background and never hesitates to say he is a "black scandinavian."

I am still close with my ex-mother-in-law (who is very dark skinned) and she has come to love my current husband. She gets a kick out of watching people's reactions when introducing us: "This is my grandson (bi-racial), my daughter (scandinavian), and my son (hispanic). We take it likely, but there are drawbacks. We have very few friends (no one in town), but the friends we have are true friends and accept us for who we are, not what we are.

10. To: Maytime
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 4:34 PM/EST

Your last comment on having few friends, gave me the impression that it was related to you having an inter-racial relationship. Is that what you wanted to communicate? If so, why do you think that is? Can relocating help your situation? More importantly, as a woman how has this experience effected you?

11. Few Friends
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 5:54 PM/EST

My neighborhood is 100% white, with the exception of my husband and son, and it is made up of mostly blue collar workers who felt they had to "escape" changing neighborhoods in Chicago. Chicago is either white or black neighborhoods, few inbetween. My son grew up knowing the kids in the neighborhood because he spent so much time with my father here, so he is accepted by the kids.

I wanted him to attend the school I went to because I knew it was one of the few racially mixed schools and it has a good educational reputation. Although the town is racist, it is the safest place for my son to be. My son is involved in sports and a swing dance troupe in the community and he has many friends. We do attend social gatherings from this, but there are inevitably racial comments and jokes because many of parents don't realize my son is mixed. I just don't care to be around that. It bothers my husband and I more than it does our son.

13. To Maytime
Fri, Sep 17, 1999 - /EST

I LOVE the "Black Scandanavian!"

15. To Maytime and Maxwell on "Americanness"
Fri, Sep 17, 1999 - 11:59 AM/EST

Maytime: Your comments about what it is to be American were right on. I lived in South America for 10 years and people were perplexed at the way we U.S. citizens have appropriated the term "American" to define ourselves. In their view, anyone from the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, is "American." Some of my Latin friends had relatives in Europe who felt the same way. It would be as if England decided to call itself "Europe" and all English subjects refered to themselves as "Europeans" to the exclusion of all others who live on or near the continent!

Also, I am a journalist. I've noticed how our press, government and special-interest groups refer to the United States as "America" when they want to incite patriotic fervor. When they refer to official U.S. business or the Olympics, it becomes "the United States." Sometimes these phrases are used on an instictual level without the person consciously realizing what they are doing. Check it out!

Read more featured posts here or continue reading thread 3 from Relationship Group 5.

Partners   Produced by Web Lab

Copyright © 1999 by Zohe Film Productions and Web Lab