June Cross' show on Frontline, "Secret Daughter" was not
only a totally engaging personal story, but also a very
well-made historical piece.
I was very sad to see how June's mother chose her own
interests time and time again; always putting her own
(materialistic) goals above her daughter's feelings. Even
now, this very lovely and very forgiving adult daughter
NEEDS her mother's love and acceptance.
Even now, when it is safe - when the mother has financial
security and the love of a nice man - she still expresses
what I see as ambivalance about June, never recognizing
June's pain. The mother recalls every heart-wrenching scene
solely from her own vantage point. Even now, the mother is
very concerned about what her friends will think of HER when
the story is aired. This, like the comments toward June when
she was a young child, leave a searing imprint on one's
Everything that I have learned from my own children adds up
to this: as a parent, your children take their cue from YOU.
If you are able to cope with challenges, maintain a sense of
yourself and give them a strong sense of who THEY are, your
children will learn to do the same.June was taught a version
of shame by her mother.Her mother thinks she acted in June's
best interests and maybe she did. But, the mother conveyed a
powerful message to June that her racial inheritance was not
only to be hidden from white society, but an active lie was
imposed upon a beautiful little girl at a very young age. It
was a lie that said, "This is not my daughter. She's too
dark. Some black family in NY was abusing her, so I very
kindly adopted her."
I kept waiting in the the two hours of "Secret Daughter" for
June's mother to say how sorry and sad she was, to accept
responsibility for burdening a child with the lifelong
consequences of this tragic story. The mother never
expressed regret in my view. I wish June every happiness.
I feel pity for her mother. Even in the present, the mother
is self-centered. Although I do not know June's mother, I
feel shame for her.
I have read with interest many of the comments on tonight's
program. It seems to me that many of the people who were so
deeply offended at the idea of a mother giving up her child
could not have been alive during the time this was all
happening. It was a time when having a child out of wedlock
(much less an interracial child) was the worst thing a young
woman could do. And it wasn't just the white folks who had
problems accepting interracial dating, relationships and
babies. (I do believe June said her dad's mother wouldn't see
her either.)The men, of course, were never held responsible
because the women always were the ones who had to control not
only themselves, but the men too. After all wasn't it Eve who
gave in to the serpent and enticed Adam to eat that apple?
Anyway, to get back to June and her mother.
I believe that her
mother tried to do the best she could under the circumstances
and whether we want to face it or not, if we had been in the
same boat during those times, we would probably have done it
too. It also seems to me that June has come out of the
experience with a lot more on the ball and an understanding
and acceptance of her and her mother's circumstances than
the viewers who now sit in judgement of the situation.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
Thank you, June for a loving and insightful look into your
world. Hopefully this program has opened some eyes about what
it was like for all of us to live in those times. Judging
from some of the comments made by other viewers it doesn't
seem to have gotten much better.
I tuned into this documentary after reading the write-up about it in the Star
Ledger. I think it was extremely well done. I found June Cross' willingness to
forgive her mother commendable. But there is an unaddressed issue here. Norma
Cross abandoned her Caucasian son as well as her black daughter. The real tragedy
here is the fact that Norma's motivation as to the abandonment of both her children
had more to do with expediency than race. She appears to have been a woman who
wanted no real strings. She is to be commended, in a sense, for recognizing this
personality flaw. She gave both children away and both have turned out to be
upstanding and successful individuals. However, even now, within her segment of
the documentary, she seems unable to connect emotionally with anything she has
done. Larry Storch comes across as far more emotionally involved with Norma's
children than Norma does. On a somewhat separate note, I hope we hear more from
As always, Frontline presented and interesting and challenging
program about a relevant issue. Although I can appreciate
June Cross' feelings concerning her belief that she was betrayed,
I felt from watching the program that her mother made a genuine
effort to keep her family together. It always astounds me
how black people act as though the concerns, sensibilities and
pursuit of racial justice that exist today have always existed.
I agree with others who think that it was June's mother who
was truly courageous. I think the self-righteous dismissal of
her mother's pain and trauma is truly insensitive. I applaud
her mother for making the effort to give her to a family that
allowed June to become the woman she is today as opposed to
dumping her on a street corner or leaving her with a church
or orphanage. My strongest sympathy went out to this young
woman who had defied society and in return was outcast and isolated
to such a point that men could stand around and watch her
be beaten with a child and do nothing. I am also dismayed that
much less blame seemed to be put on the father who did not
seem to put a lot of effort into finding his child or an objective
acknowledgement that he was the catalyst for a lot of the
subsequent tragedy that followed. No one is in a position to
judge either June Cross or her mother but I will say, June, try
walking in someone else's shoes before condemning them.
I found Frontline's Secret Daughter interesting. I felt June's mother was very
ignorant about some important issues in raising a child. Yes, June's mother raised
June under some different circumstances and at a different time. Yet, even as she
was interviewed on the show, her ignorance shown through. For instance, at one
point she said something along the lines that it would be better for June to live
with blacks because she wouldn't get in June's way, and June wouldn't get in her
way. Of what relavance is the last portion of that statement? Whose decision was it
to engage in activities that can result with the birth of a baby? Clearly, June's
mother's child rearing abilities had been learned from June's grandmother who
apparently treated her daughter in a similar way.
But towards the end of the show, I became angry for an entirely different reason. In
one of June's many discussions comparing blacks to whites, she said something about
how whites treated blacks a certain, racist way. Excuse me? I don't recall the
exact words but what could be more of a racist statement than to talk about what
all whites think. I'm always angered by racists and, at times, June seemed to come
across as one herself. I just wonder if such attitudes could be a result of the
things she missed as a child.
I was happy to see all the other messages posted in praise of Secret Daughter. I
too was entranced for 2 hours last night and amazed at June's courage to dig this
deeply into her own and her mother's psyches. What a horrible, painful way to grow
up. I really wanted to blame Norma or be angry with her at the very least. But I
think that in the end she proved herself a loving mother within the constraints of
her times, her culture, and all the pressures around her. I'm not saying that I
think she did the right thing. But at least in my mind, there was some sympathy
for the incredibly difficult decision she made. In any event, we can only hope
that society changes, that whites become more tolerant (of everyone) and that
eventually we all become color blind so that people don't have to face ridiculous
outside pressures that force them to cover up for their lives. Thank you to June
and to PBS for this really wonderful show.
Chapel Hill, NC
After viewing your frontline piece i felt compelled to
rave concerning its contents. You are truly an inspiration
to the human race, and especially to our black community.
I realyy want to stress a comment that you made during the
program. You said (in so many words), that you are
thankful that you were not raised by your birth mother.
You should be!!! With all due respect, your mother could
be the poster "adult" for total disfunction!!!! I was
especially struck by her total admittance of self
centeredness. All her life, it seems that she has focused
on furthering herself, and she had very little time for her
responsibilities. You are truly a saint for even
associating with her today. I imagine it helps you with
the healing. I however, do not (unfortunately) possess
your tolerance of persons such as your mother. Once again,
kudos for a job well done, June.
Craig A. Smith
P.S. You did not elaborate much on why your relationship
with aunt peggy deteriorated towards the end of her death.
What is the story behind that? Thanks.
I was riveted by June's story and very impressed by her
braveness to pursue the truth about her life. I really
felt that the racial aspect of the situation was a small
portion of her mother's inability to be mother. She treated
her son the same and sent him off to boarding school when
he was only four! What kind of mother sends her child off
to boarding school at four? I am so surprised that June and
her brother turned out so well. I do agree with June's
aunt whom she went to visit in the hospital that Norma must have
gone off the edge in her life. She did seem to live a very
wild life for that time and I think she thought only of herself.
I applaude June! She teaches us a lesson, we all have tensions
in our family but the thing that matters the most is that
we can have a loving relationship with our parents. In the
end it is all that really matters.
An excellent show, as was Lena Horne and Nat King Cole on previous evening. Wonder
if June Cross saga is more about failure of a mother to meet her responsibilities,
than race. My wife and I have been married 27 years. Bore and raised a 26
bi-racial son, who is and considers himself black. Lived on Army installations for
seven of his developmental years. Our view was that choice of mates was our
personal business, and society could take it or leave it. Can't understand the
importance which June's mother placed on the acceptance of "friends." Most of our
lives are monopolized by work and immediate family.
Louis J. Beasley, Jr
I saw Secret Daughter last night on PBS and I had mixed
feelings about what I saw. I can understand June's desire
to produce this movie as it was an riveting human interest
story. However, I cannot understand why she could not get
angry at her mother.
I totally disagree with the opinion that June's mother
gave her up for her own good. I think that this was a sign
of weakness on her mothers part. Fitting in with society
was more important than being strong for her daughter. Yes
her life would not have been easy, but she willingly made
the decision to cross racial boundaries, sadly she was not
as willing to deal with the consequences. In the end her
daughter paid the price.
June on the other hand, seemed to be seeking approval
from her mother. It was astonishing the way June laughted
when her mother expressed the fact the she did not abort her
pregnancy because of the lack of money. In essence I believe
that she still has some issues to deal with.
I think that If June's mother accepted her responsibilities
as a mother, she would not be so totally clueless about her
daughter's experiences as a black person in America. I would
have liked to hear her tell her daughter that she understood
her feelings and was sorry for her mistakes.
I watched the program last night and have thought about it all day today. Anger and
sadness alternate in my heart. We always love our mothers so much. We want so
much for them to love us and accept us. I saw this over and over in the piece. It
was in June wanting her mother's love and it was in Norma repeatedly saying her
mother never accepted her (Norma). If Norma felt it was better for June to be
raised by the black family, why not cut ties completely and let them adopt June?
There was so much information in the piece yet there seemed to be chunks missing:
June seems close to her brother. When did they spend time together? It didn't
seem that they had ever had extended time to be together unless this was part of
the 'visitation' life spent on summer vacations? Why was Storch disinherited?
Mention is made then 'we're getting ahead of the story' but never went back. What
was June's life like at Harvard? And did she get there with support from her
mother? How distant could her mother have been.
I have watched this show twice, and I cannot fathom why
June isn't angrier with Norma. If Norma had really
cared for her daughter, she wouldn't have given her
this disorienting yo-yo life, back and forth between
the African American world that both welcomed and nurtured
her, and the white world of her mother's chosen life --
let me stress, this is the world and the life and the
*persona* her mother chose! -- that rejected the essence
of this beautiful child.
Wouldn't it have been healthier for June to be raised in
the loving and empowering arms of her adopted family and
exended community, instead of leaving that world over and
over again for the harsh and self-centered rejection of
her "true" mother?
Maybe Jimmy did the right thing: he gave her up entirely.
Norma was too selfish to do the right thing for her daughter.
It's a miracle June has turned out so well with a mother as
thoughtless, cruel and fundmentally bigoted as Norma. Some
would say Norma is a product of her generation and her
upbringing. I can't deny that. But look how her selfishness
cut to the core of June, whether June acknowledges it or
not in the film.
It breaks my heart. It simply breaks my heart. I'd love to
see an objective FRONTLINE producer's treatment of this
story as a follow-up.
I really enjoyed this show. I watched it because of the
article about it in the Washington Post. It was engrossing
and moving (I even stayed up past my bedtime!). Both June's
and Norma's situations and feelings were understandable
given given the times and circumstances.
I found it interesting that in spite of her fears of the
secret coming out and how the society of the time would
react, that Norma maintained regular contact with June.
Though that can't necessarily make up for what they missed
in their relationship, I think it says a lot for the love
that she has for June. After all, I think June's half-
sister's life was probably the more common outcome in those
days. The situation created by Norma's fears of
acknowleging June reminded me of another show I watched
recently about Irish babies that were taken away from their
unwed mothers and set to the U.S. for adoption. It was
sad that while some of the women didn't mind that people
knew what happened and were actually looking for their
children, others, even today, didn't want anyone to know.
Though the reason for their fears was different (not race
but the stigma of unwed motherhood), it was still based it
the fact that they had violated their society's values. In
both cases, the children and their mothers can't have the
life or relationship that they are entitled to.
I found this presentation to be incredibly though provoking and powerful. I applaud
June for diligently searching her roots and finding out who she is. I cannot
understand, however, her mother's obvious preoccupation with the difference of her
skin and that of her daughters. I don't feel she did the right thing by giving her
up-she allowed racism to come between her and her daughter-I thought blood was
thicker than water. Regardless of this, June has presented herself as a very
strong, intelligent, individual. Bravo!
As I read through the viewers frequent criticism of Norma, I noticed no one was
concerned about the behavior of June's father--he didn't marry June's mother, or the
his other daughter, also white, or the woman identified as his common-law-wife.
He was an abusive alcoholic. Yet many viewers criticized Norma for letting someone
raise her daughter. I'm an adoptive parent, and I believe that a woman can have
own best interests and the child's best interests at heart when she makes that
decision. It was a wonderful show and I thank Frontline and June Cross for giving
the opportunity to see it.
I really enjoyed June Cross's program. As a white mother of three grown bi-racial
children my heart ached for June. I know that life would have been hard for Norma
but June was her child and I can't say that I understand how she could not keep
her. It almost seemed more cruel to visit Norma "under cover" and then to go home
again. I wish she would not be so accepting of her mothers decision. I think her
mother should be forgiven but there needs to be more talking done! June did not
deserve this treatment. June has certainly become a wonderful young woman and
should be very proud of herself.
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