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The following Featured Post comes from TV Series Group 9, Thread 4.

1. Things have got to change
Sat, Sep 18, 1999 - 3:25 PM/EST
shanita

I watched the show because it doesn't make sense the way that color can still make or break a person in this society. Karen had to make big personal sacrifices to keep her family together. She lost a great deal of acceptance in her hometown because of the color of the man she loved. White people who choose to be in romantic relationships with black people, in particular, are not able to enjoy the priviledges that come with being white, but by the same token, black people who become involved in these relationships are even more in danger of suffering the cruelty that white society has shown black people since the times of slavery.

It seems to me that nothing has changed. People are more inclined to speak in politically correct ways, but their hearts hold fast to racist beliefs handed down to them from their ancestors. This country is stagnant, frozen in racism because its citizens prefer to pretend the problem doesn't exist. And, to add insult to injury, there are sheltered groups of white people who really couldn't begin to know what all of the fuss is about. We are a long way away from resolving the problem ... I guess at least this dialogue is a step in the right direction.

2. Things change, but slowly
Sat, Sep 18, 1999 - 7:44 PM/EST
harmony

I think things are changing, in bits and pieces, sometimes one step forward and two steps back, but I really feel (hope) I am seeing overall positive change. Some of it is just an openness to talk about race, learn about each other. I was changed a little by the series, I think, when I came to understand that my family and our community is not really so unusual.

And that you cannot tell by looking at a person, what his or her family is like or what their attitudes about interracial marriage is. I don't think I am unusual in that I sometimes assume a rural white southerner is a bigot. It's always a relief to find out that the person I have unfairly pigeon-holed has an interracial family. It's the same thing with African-Americans. I have felt more disapproval of me and my biracial children from Black women, so when I get to know someone and find out they have Whites (I really hate these color terms, but they are useful short-hand) in their family, I feel a little more comfortable with that person.

I know that sounds silly and shallow. We go to our family reunion on my husband's side and see such a huge range of people who all relate first as family. At work, our environment is so sensitive to racial diversity issues that we "count" people as either black, white or hispanic and that really seems to define us to each other in some subtle way. But at home and in our larger family, we have a more shared identity. I guess the main reason I feel more optimistic, is that multi-racial people are our future.

4. Some Things Change - But Not Enough
Sat, Sep 18, 1999 - 9:09 PM/EST
laura_ca

To Shanita -
I think most people tend to avoid dealing with any issue that is difficult and complex, especially if it doesn't have a direct impact on their lives. Racism and prejudice certainly fit the bill for most of white America. I agree that racism is a huge issue, but I think the only way we can hope to move forward is through communication and education (like these dialogues and the documentary).

Also, more people need to be willing to speak out and stand up for their beliefs. A lot of progress has been made over the last 40 years, much of it from a legal perspective, but it's much harder to change people's attitudes and beliefs. While some people will never change, education and exposure to those of different races, cultures and religions can go a long way. What disturbs me are the beliefs and actions of some of the African Americans who have reached positions of political power in this country.

Here in CA., Ward Connerly was able to successfully push proposition 209, which eliminated all affirmative action programs in the state (and CA. had MANY). His reasoning was that the programs are no longer needed because the playing field is now level. Of course, he had a lot of help from the conservative Republican constituency, but it's hard for me to understand how he can really believe this. He is now taking his anti-affirmative action campaign nationwide, and who's gonna stop him?

5. Change
Sun, Sep 19, 1999 - 3:09 PM/EST
shanita

To Harmony
I agree with you when you say that many times unfair pigeon-holing of people is inevitable when we don't have any real information to go on. I try not to assume the worst of white people when I find that I am perhaps the only black in my surroundings, but at times I do. Most of the time I don't. I am not perfect. However, I do tend to give people a chance to reveal their personalities to me before I form strong opinions about them. But, I will attempt to address what you wrote about the pigeon-hole type reactions of black women toward you and your biracial children. Perhaps, like me, there are black women who have felt disgruntled about the fact that there are simply not enough black men to go around. It appears that if a black man is not dead, he is in jail, gay or ... with a white woman.

There are many arguments about why the state of the "black family" is in such ruins, but I do not discount the terrible legacy of racism and racial hatred in this country as a major factor in the black man's demise. We are not that far removed from a time when a white man could lynch a black man on a whim and with impunity. One can only imagine the wide ranging psychological and emotional impact that this can have on an individual, a family, and a community.

The looks that you get are looks of suspicion and anger. "What was she really after when she got together with him?" "Did she see a "mandingo" or a real human being?" "Why couldn't she have found a white guy? I haven't been able to find a "decent" black man in years." "What is she teaching those kids?" "She can't possibly teach them to be proud of their African heritage because she is white and white people scorn black people." No, its not logical and it is unfair to you as an individual.

I prefer to take a live and let live approach to life, so I am not one to stare or give a look. But, based on the exploitative nature of the history of black/white relations in America, at times I too also wonder.

6. Change
Sun, Sep 19, 1999 - 5:10 PM/EST
shanita

To Laura Ca-
I am glad to know that unlike Karen in the American Love Stories series, you are not being ostracized or humiliated by family and friends for being in a mixed relationship. Perhaps that is a sign of improvement. But, you are from California are you not? I have often been told that depending on where you live in California, absolutely anything goes. I am wondering if perhaps you live in an area like this. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, I find it encouraging to know that you have had no problems.

And, on to what you asked about "priviledges" and "cruelty." Whether white Americans want to believe it or not, they are members of the dominant/priviledged group. Being white makes it least likely that you will be: ignored in American history books, stopped by police for suspicion of wrong doing, denied the right to live in the neighborhood of your choice, passed over for promotion to the highest executive offices, looked at suspiciously by white women clutching their purses as you walk by, left out of the primetime line up on free TV and, targeted by the KKK as a threat to American society. As far as "cruelty" is concerned it can be psychological and/or physical. In the American Love Stories series, Cicily and her mother received incredulous looks and different treatment when they went shopping together. I don't doubt that this hurt both their feelings very much. Obviously, either you have never experienced this because it never happened, or you never noticed it. What are your thoughts?

7. To Shanita
Sun, Sep 19, 1999 - 7:07 PM/EST
laura_ca

So glad you responded! While I do live in northern California (you'd be surprised how conservative it can actually be), I was born and raised in Detroit. I have dated AfAm men both in Detroit and Sacramento. Perhaps I have not noticed the type of treatment Karen and Cicily experienced while shopping; I tend to place little importance on strangers' behavior towards me.

As for my family, they are very supportive. They don't care what color the man in my life is, as long as he treats me right and we love each other. I think I have a better idea of what you were referring to after watching the last episode of ALS (I saw it last night). I was appalled at the treatment that Bill, Karen, and her family had to endure 30 years ago, and sincerely hope that this would be the exception today, rather than the rule. I cannot imagine having the sheriff show up at my door to give me hell because of who I was dating!

On to priviledges and cruelty... I cannot dispute that whites are members of a dominant group here in the US. And I agree that many people of other ethnicities are denied some of these privileges, even if it may not be obvious. I'm still not clear on what priviledges a white person in a relationship with a black person would have to give up today. Perhaps I haven't faced some of these situations, as I have not lived with or been married to an AfAm man as of yet. I may have a lot to learn, which is one of the reasons I joined this group. I want to be prepared for whatever lies ahead and gain knowledge from others' perspectives and experiences.

8. Ouch
Sun, Sep 19, 1999 - 7:48 PM/EST
harmony

to Shanita:
I'm glad we are having this conversation on line, because I don't imagine we could be this frank with each other face to face. I,too,have heard the stereotype reactions of black women to white women in interracial relationships and it still amazes me. I tended to believe it was a small percentage, because it seems like such an incredibly ignorant train of thought: that any black man is a potential partner for any black woman, or even worse, that another person could presume to judge the quality of my ability to educate my children -- as if a woman's skin color gave her some right to think about my children in such a personal way. It's almost scary. Yes, I'm defensive about this.

I have strong bonds with my children and we have only rarely been subject to any overt disapproval. But any amount hurts. My kids are adolescent and mid-teen and have fortunately been influenced by adults from many "racial" groups and backgrounds. I am so proud of their confidence and impatience with those who don't understand and have earned no right to know more, let alone to question their upbringing. But because you sort of posed the question: both my husband and I are very conscious of the need to provide good African American role models and a full appreciation of the contributions Black people have made in our culture. However, my main response to ensuring they are proud of their African American heritage has been to ensure they have a loving and close connection to the members of their family who are African American -- these are the roots I care about. Are they missing a stronger link with the African diaspora? Probably. They'll have to get that on their own. I am their mother, and I can only give to them the gifts I have.

I really wonder how we will ever get past making assumptions about people based on their appearance. I do it all the time; I'm certainly not perfect either.

9. Change
Mon, Sep 20, 1999 - 1:31 PM/EST
bb

To Shanita, Harmony and Laura CA

I appreciate the opportunity to join this thread! Like Harmony, I think it is one step forward and two steps back. Often people don't change their way of thinking until something shakes them up or creates a lot of pain. And like Laura I am living in northern California where in the metropolitan areas there is a lot of diversity. But as she said not only do we have good ol' Ward Connerly, we also have lots of homogeneity and prejudice in the valley and rural areas. As far as giving up my white privilege to be with my black husband--mostly it has come (outside of Sacramento) in rude looks and comments (from both white and black people), and waiting endlessly in some establishments, finally having to ask for service.

Traveling in Arizona, rural California and rural Georgia has felt scary for us even though nothing happened. I guess it is the feeling that there is a potential for something to happen like Bill in the series said. Sacramento seems to have a lot of interracial couples so it doesn't seem to surprise people that much. I am disheartened by the many white people (about 1/3 of every diversity class I teach)who don't have a clue and get defensive if you even ask them to consider the subject of racism. And them I am encouraged by the pockets of people in my personal and professional life who are open, and questioning, and not only tolerant but appreciative of diversity (there are over a 1000 people in these dialogue groups!)

10. To BB
Mon, Sep 20, 1999 - 2:02 PM/EST
laura_ca

Welcome BB! I am sure you will provide some interesting input to this group. It's also great to have someone else from my geographical area in the group, since I have only my personal experience on which to base my perspective. I too have noticed that there are many interracial couples in the Sacramento area, and I am sure that the large number helps those of us in these relationships to be more readily accepted.

11. harmony
Mon, Sep 20, 1999 - 6:26 PM/EST
shanita

I hope that you didn't find what I wrote to be offensive. I care enough about what PBS is trying to do to be frank, honest, right, and even wrong so that I can grow along with you and everyone else who has chosen to participate. I didn't have a chance to comment on what you said about multiracial people being the future. If the truth be told, there are very few people in our society that escape that designation. I take issue with the fact that many people refuse to acknowledge this. I feel that this country is in full scale denial of its own history. This is a sickness of sorts. And it has festered over time.

I hope that you remember and take with you one very important thing that Cicily and her sister said during the interview that took place after the series ended. They said that it became clear to them that they were not the ones who had a problem with being bi-racial. It was other people who had the problem. So it goes for interracial couples. You are simply not responsible for the problems that other people have with you and your family. This country simply has a lot of growing to do. Perhaps this discussion group represents the frontline.


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