Biracial Portraits

Multiracial/Interracial Relationships

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Dear FRONTLINE,
I'm a white man who has been married to a black woman for what will be 25 years this next April fool's day. And what a wonderfully enlightening, frustrating, tearful, strengthening and - in many respects - ordinary life it has been.

We have found a certain level of acceptance in this small southern city which is for both of our homeplace. Our acceptance in the black community came easily for the most part; in the white community it is: "well they are not really from another planet and we might as well get use to it since they look like they are going to stay". Our families have been behind us, but of course that means we have been out front.

We chose early on to be visible and not go into hiding (it really took a long time for me to not be afaid) but we are still isolated by racism - I guess it is that "box" June Cross talked about. I believe it was white greed and arrogance which build the box and that now it is white cowardice that keeps it from fall apart.
Rick Hall
Texarkana, AR


Dear FRONTLINE,
Of all the interracial relationships I have known among my friends I have never seen any of them have problems because of skin color. Their problems are those of other couples no matter what the race. As a matter of fact they all have very special relationships. Maybe it's because when they first meet, they are delighted by the person inside the skin that is so different. Anyway, I'm tired of the media focusing on the negative of interracial people and relationships. For every unhappy person that blames their unhappiness on color, there are hundreds of happy healthy human beings who bring that health and happiness to their relationships and the world around them.
S.P.
Studio City, CA


Dear FRONTLINE,
I was moved by June's drive to find out all the details of her life, be they happy, or sad. Coming from a family of many bi-racial marriages, it is nice to see what has happened to the children of bi-racial parents. Interracial marriages are more common than most people would have you believe. The fact that June and her half sister literally lived the same life clearly backs up this statement. I would urge anyone to see this documentary. Kudos to June for not trying to sugar-coat the truth. Many would not have been as brave as she. June was a success story. Can you imagine how many bi-racial children of June's era that were not so lucky to grow in a generally "normal" household. I know what it feels like to be looked at differently because of the color of my skin, but I always had my own race to go back to and to identify with. I do not know what I would do if neither race that I belonged to accepted me. After viewing Secret Daughter, I questioned what I would do in June's mother's situation. I am still mulling over whether or not I would have done the same. I think that Norma took the best option that she could. Norma was married to a black man in a time when that just was not done. Even now in the 90's interracial couples still are viewed as taboo.
Joy Fowler
Shaker Heights, OH


Dear FRONTLINE,
I was deeply moved by the excellent Frontline production: Secret Daughter. June Cross showed great personal courage, as did her mother, in bringing their family story to the screen. As the white father of an adopted black daughter I often wonder about the personal pain of the biological parents in giving up their beautiful child for adoption. There have been many struggles already along our path and I'm sure there will be more to come but I believe that by keeping involved with other black families and trying to understand the American Black history and culture, my wife and I can continue to support our child as she grows up here in the USA. The biases and undertones of racism are not solely from the white community - we have been subjected to comments and stares from the black community too, presumably espousing the longheld view of the Black Social Workers organisation who say that cross-racial adoption is a "bad thing". Unfortunately, in this "land of opportunity" there are many examples of continuing racism. Thank you for a moving and stimulating story which I hope will soon be repeated.
Chris Ellis


Dear FRONTLINE,
Having been in an interracial relationship for 16 years, I feel that I can add something to this discussion. What I have learned is this: Love is where you find it, life is what you make it. If you are so lucky find a man or woman who treats you the way you should be treated, you are fortunate indeed. I have been fortunate; I am a woman who found a man who loves me, cares for me and stands with me. The fact that I am Black and he is Caucasian is really of no moment, except to those who have nothing else to talk about! Life is no dress rehearsal and I have found it is far too short to become caught up in things that don't matter.
B.D.
New Jersey


Dear FRONTLINE,
I find the notion that, because one of a black person's immediate parents (e.g., a parent) is white, that person is "bi-racial" or "multi-racial." First, there isn't a black person in America who isn't "multiracial." For example my last name is Crockett, I am a descendant of Davey Crockett's brother who had sons by a slave he kept. That story is far from unique. The fact that blacks are no longer jailed or lynched for such relationships doesn't make the children something they weren't before.

Secondly, I am extremely concerned that being "bi-racial" is another way of saying "I don't want to be thought of as black." Our children aren't taught "I don't want to be white." But if their hair is too curly or their skin too copper to pass for white, they still don't have to be black if they can be thought of as "bi-racial." Well, although I have no more than 30% African blood, I'm black. I always was and always will be.
Tabania L. Crockett


Dear FRONTLINE,
Regarding the comments you received from viewers on your documentary "Secret Daughter," -- I did not see any comments from persons who experienced the same rejection from their families as Norma did. True, our society is more accepting of interracial relationships today than they were in the '50's and '60s. One need only ask a passerby (i.e., someone who is NOT involved in an interracial relationship) who will tell you how they see more mixed couples walking about town so everything must be fine and dandy. But where are the people, especially the white women who have raised bi-racial children on their own? And where do they live? In an interracial neighborhood, a predominantly black neighborhood or in a predominantly white neighborhood? Also, where are the comments from your readers who also were disowned by their families but chose to keep and raise their bi-racial child, in spite of the stares, whispers, rejection and disrespect from others they encountered? I'm talking about the white women who had break. Either you have a backbone or you don't. Either you say this is me and most importantly, this is my child, or you don't. I offer no criticisms for Norma or for June. I only say I did it differently, and after seeing this program, I am glad I did it my way.
KAP
Washington, DC


Dear FRONTLINE,
I have had black friends since high school. I am a 42 year old white female with no college degree, but with > 20 yrs experience at a national research laboratory. My profession involves highly specialized, technical, scientific work. I have many black friends, some of whom are co-workers, some of whom are social acquaintances through my children. My greatest hope is that my children will never have to feel shame for having friends of other races. Both of my children have many black and mixed-race friends. The only time they seem to feel uncomfortable is when adults make an issue of it. Hopefully, their generation will be so much more accepting and adaptable. With the economic shift toward downsizing in many large companies, I fear that subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination of many forms will re-surface, setting the affirmative action goals back to the early 70's when I first entered the workplace. I cannot imagine working and socializing with only white males or only white females. How boring!
Debbie Roberts
Kingston, TN


Dear FRONTLINE,
I am in an interracial relationship. I think that as long as both partners recognize that conflict is inevitable, it can all possibly be worked out. I see other people going into these situations claiming "it doesn't matter that one of us is white and the other is black" (or Asian or Latino or Native American). This seems ridiculous to me; of course it matters. What I hope is that if the two of us and our children can openly discuss problems that will come up that we can at least acknowledge where we are and that we have a right to exist. After all its not like families that are all of one race don't have all sorts of problems and issues to deal with. Most of the crime etc happens in one-race families! By the way, in case people haven't heard of it, Gregory Hines' film, TAP was a great introduction to black entertainers of Jimmy Cross' era and their being trapped by [or] in time.
Terri Barnes


Dear FRONTLINE,
I would like to thank you for dealing with a topic that most so-called Americans find so disgusting: the mating of what they believe to be different 'races'. Currently, I am teaching a course at the University Of Missouri-Columbia that deconstructs the faulty, ignorant concepts upon which most people base their beliefs [Anthropology and the Concept of Race, Anth 201]. The film strikes at the very core of racism in practice [e.g. how the Mormons in her family considered people with dark skin examples of original sin]; this exemplifies what I call Silent Racism, which is the prevailing type of racism in America, and I define it as "a practice, act, or event that is motivated by race, which is not verbally acknowledged to be racially motivated, and is maintained by tacit approval from generation to generation." Most Americans would say, when asked if they were a racist, "I am not a racist," while they adhere to the One Drop Rule, attend segregated churches, maintain 'separate but equal' from 9 to 5 and Aparthei systematics of humans. Just maybe, if Anthropologists could make it perfectly clear that the latest archaeological and genetic evidence confirms the East African origin of humans, thus all humans are descended from a common ancestoral population, and as Ernst Mayr of Harvard University wrote in 1970, "To speak of pure races is sheer nonsense" (in Population, Species, and Evolution, Cambridge: Harvard University Press). Though 'education' cannot 'solve' the problems of racism, which permeate American life [e.g. Texaco, the riots in St. Petersberg, Florida, and the like], there is little hope that a major solution is possible without accurate information for public consumption. "Secret Daughter" is certainly a step in the right direction, because its irony makes the viewer think; the most recent anthropological information is the next step.
Sincerely,
Larry Ross


Dear FRONTLINE,
Love is love and it shouldn't matter if the persons in love just happen to be of different races. Some people fall in love with the person's color or belief of a higher status because of that color. Some people really do love their mate - REGARDLESS of color. My only problem with interracial relationships is when a person is only in love with skin color - but how do you know? At any rate, if society could just "let go" of the issue of two people of different races, colors, religions, or socio-economic backgrounds, there would be know discussions such as this.
T.M.S.
Columbus, GA


Dear FRONTLINE,
My wife and I are a bi-racial couple, and have two beautiful daughters. All our parenting efforts were directed toward making them feel independent and proud of their mixed heritage. Your show merely brought out the sad truth that was so evident in America in the fifties, the early sixties, it was fashionable to be cool and accept multi-cultures; but from our experience we chose to raise our children in a fairly affluent neighborhood, because I seriously believe that bigotry is found most often in neighborhoods that consist of un-educated people. We left a town when a neighbor cut down our fence with a chainsaw, and the police did not side with us. We left this town and feel safer in a bigger town where people at least respect you for the standard of living you can afford. Subtly, though, racial prejudice is alive and well in America today, just sometimes it hides its ugly head and does not appear as often.
Well done!
Joghee Tsang
Holden, MA


Dear FRONTLINE,
What a great program. It was alternately sad and happy. I am a white guy, 48, married to a black woman, 49, for 15 years and we have a 10 year old daughter. In our experience, we have had no troubles being an interracial couple, in fact, lots of people seem to be overly nice to us, maybe to express some kind of support for us. Our daughter is well liked by everyone she comes in contact with. So far we have never had a bad experience with anyone due to our relationship. I guess things are quite a bit better than they were in the 1950's.

My wife and I enjoyed the program immensely. June's narration was great. Thanks for putting it on. Hopefully, you will rerun it in the future so people who missed it the first time will get a chance to see it.
r D. Haverkamp
Pasadena, CA


Dear FRONTLINE,
Being in an interracial marriage for 33 years now I was struck by the difference as well as similarities between the early 50's as portrayed in Secret Daughter and our experinces in the early 60's. We are in the generation right between June and her mother. We seem to have had a much easier time than they did - perhaps we learned quicly how to shelter our selves, staying primarily in Washington DC and living our social life out in the context of a rather progressive non-denominational church.

Yet, we have stories to tell: Being followed by police. Being taken into 2nd Precint for a minor traffic violation. Not being seated in downtown resturants, or seated way back in a corner by the kithen. People driving over the curb or walking into lamp poles while looking at us. But nothing too serious ever happened.

At first it was white people that had trouble with our presence. In the 70's it was more black people reacting. Now - who cares - rarely if ever any reaction, even out in the hinterlands. We now have grown children with spouses - very mixed - our family heritage now includes African, Native American, Euorpean, and Asian. I am in a white minority in our family and feel it.

I have long held the belief that it is not fair or right that people are labeled by the darker race of their heritage - why are my children black instead of white or Native American - they have close to equal parts - and anyhow what difference does it make. Culture is more important than race in defining where a person comes from or how they are going to behave. I know a lot of pretty white black people and a few pretty black white people. This is a total oversimplifycation of complex thoughts that rose up from watching Secret Daughter. I am being called to help with Thanksgiving dinner prep. I have more to say and will write more another time.

For now I just want to commend and thank June Cross for sharing her life and acknowlege the courage it took to do so on her part and all her friends and family tha came out with her. ~Peter Mosher [one half of FudgeRoyal@msn.com] Once upon a time there was the Fudge Royal gang - long before the days of cyber space & email - we are all thats left. Anyone want to recreate it with us, on line if not in person?
Peter Mosher


Dear FRONTLINE,
This is my second message to you, and this time I'll try to say what I really mean. Secret Daughter demostrates what the power of institutionalized racism has done to American families over a period of not only decades but centuries. I find it fascinating that both of June's parents may have had mixed ancestry, but yet both were "pigeon holed" into opposite categories.

I also applaud June's decision to identify herself as African American because America with its long standing rule on one drop of black blood has inherently made it that way.

I am also tired of hearing about "mixed race" or "biracial" or even "triracial" individuals lately. Who among us isn't mixed with something! I am classified and proud to be classified as an African American; but I have at least one white great grandfather, one great grandmother who was of Cherokee ancestry, a great great grandfather who was half Choctaw, and a great great grandmother who was mixed with Creek, etc. I have gotten back to the late 1820s on some family lines, and I have yet to find the full blooded African; but I continue to search. In fact, there is another branch of my family which is also African American; however, the common ancestor linking our two families was white! When all things are considered, my ancestry is probably really rather typical of most late 20th century African Americans; so I can't understand why we are trying to divide ourselves further into more categories that really aren't accurate.

Since he is in the press so much, I'll use him as an example--O. J. Simpson--his two younger children really aren't biracial as some have described them (a person would have to have one pure black parent and the other parent of pure white ancestry) because O. J. is himself of "mixed" ancestry; so what does that make his children?--hopefully just Americans.
G. H.
Dallas, TX


Dear FRONTLINE,
In response to the person from Kentucky who questioned the viability of interracial relationships, I say that her questions show a fundamental ignorance of history and of the current situation in a variety of countries. Interracial relationships (if they can be called that, since there is no scientific substantiation for the idea that there are distinct racial groups among human beings) have always existed, and are the prevalent type of relationships in many countries of the world, particularly in Latin America (In fact, whole countries have been created out of a mixture of races; eg. Morocco, Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Phillipines, etc.). The United States has experienced interracial relationships since Europeans first arrived here and began mixing with the Native Americans and with the Africans they imported to these shores. It is uniquely American psychosis to pretend that multiracial Americans are not an integral part of the American fabric, and have been for centuries.

Furthermore, I am a Black woman married to a White man,and we have three children. We have been married for ten years, have never had any problem that concerned race with our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. It helps that we come from decent families, because I believe American racism is premised on a lack of decency, in addition to a shocking level of ignorance. It also helps that we have always lived in fairly progressive communities with large Hispanic populations (eg. California, New Mexico, and South Florida). I can imagine that if a person lives in some place as backwards as I believe Kentucky to be, then they would have the perspective of that writer.

Our three children attract lots of attention because of their beauty, exotic looks, and outgoing personalities. We are constantly complimented by strangers as well as friends about them. If we ever do encounter strangers with any negative feelings about our family, we are certainly unaware of it, and would not care in the least anyway. Everyone is going to have a problem about something, and it is only an extremely insecure person who would concern themselves with the opinions of strangers. For people who think like that writer from Kentucky, I say America is changing and they need to"Get With the Program!"
M. M.
Miami, FL


Dear FRONTLINE,
I think an interracial relationship CAN work, and if someone is so stuck on the approval of society for a personal relationship, then perhaps they would be better off alone. I am a African-American female in her early 20s, and my 26 year-old boyfriend is white, blond hair no less, and we've gone out for over a year now. Neither one of us, sees the other as an object or something "exotic", but as human beings. We've had our share of troubles, mostly from his family concerning me, but I think we're still together because our relationship also has a firm foundation in a most important thing: friendship. No relationship can survive without that. If an interracial relationship(or any relationship) is based upon one person seeing the other as a toy or a fetish, or something not equal to themselves, it will fail. I'm lucky that I've found someone that doesn't see me that way.
Amy Rutherford


Dear FRONTLINE,
A round of applause for June Cross for telling her very personal story "Secret Daughter". Our family is second generation biracial and faced the struggles of the 70's and 80' (with my own children) and the questions and concerns of the 90's (with my granddaughter). We are thankful that we had the strength and love to remain solid and together. A very special thanks to June's Mom for having the strength to speak publically of her feelings and the issues she had to face for making the choices in life that she did. June, thanks for letting us into your world for a moment! We look forward to seeing more of your fantastic work!
Malden, MA


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