BREAKING OUT OF THE BOX
by Cicily Wilson and Chaney Sims
Cicily Wilson and Chaney Sims are the daughters of Karen Wilson and Bill Sims, the interracial couple profiled in AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE's new 10-hour documentary series about a family in Queens, New York, that debuts Sunday, September 12, 1999 through Thursday, September 16 from 9 to 11 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).
People ask us all the time, "Where are you from?" We always know what that question really means. The wheels are turning in their heads: our exotic features could be attributed to nearly any culture on the globe. We answer "America." The reply disturbs them. The blend our ancestors have created in our appearance is intriguing, and we watch people attempt to unravel the connecting threads. They dig deeper. "Well, where are your parents from?" We know that as soon as they discover our father is black and our mother is white, a world of possibilities will disappear, replaced by a flatland of bias and assumption.
Our parents know that, too. When we were growing up, they did not hide the fact that people are prejudiced. They knew that we would not be spared the same kind of hatred and discrimination they have experienced as an interracial couple. But even they could not have imagined the kind of harassment and social pressures we face today.
We have similar childhood memories of our mother telling us, very matter of factly, that the world would always see us as black. We sat confused, listening to our white mother tell us that a part of us, her part of us, would never be recognized! Can you imagine what it is like to know that as far as most people are concerned, your mother does not exist?
We have learned to shrug it off when people stare at
us when we walk down the street with our mother. We
have learned to expect that when we introduce her to
our friends, their surprised smiles will try to hide
the question: were we adopted? And we have learned
that when we are with our father, we will rarely receive
such odd reactions. So along with suffering through
the daily dose of injustice and stereotype that accompanies
being African American, we digest another portion of
discrimination - the kind that comes from both sides
not fully understanding or accepting who we are.
While these reactions sadden us, they also serve to strengthen our spirit. We were not raised to put up barriers; the thought of categorizing someone based on race or skin color has never entered our minds. Yet, we are asked to categorize ourselves everyday: Black, White or Other? We are supposed to choose a box. "Other" may seem like the best choice, but it is a label nonetheless. We do not want to limit ourselves to any box. And as mixed-race people, we do not feel trapped by a lack of boxes to choose from, we feel hemmed in by the boxes themselves! We feel that we are part of a greater community - humanity - and each time someone asks, "Where are you from?," we feel less confident that the greater community can ever really be formed.
Our parents exposed us to as many cultures as possible, and raised us in an open-minded household. In this setting, we not only learned to respect people of all backgrounds, we also learned to respect ourselves, recognizing we are all part of one race - the human race.
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WHAT'S RACE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
BREAKING OUT OF THE BOX
LAWS OF THE LAND
Partners Produced by Web Lab
Copyright © 1999 by Zohe Film Productions and Web Lab