Upon watching Secret Daughter the first time, I felt saddened for June, and anger for Norma. The sympathy for June for a mother who could comment on her skin color as a child for the reason they couldn't be together, I felt the sting of that comment for June. The anger and disdain for Norma because even now, she didn't seem to understand how that hurt her daughter. After watching the show for a 2nd time, I saw Norma with more compassion. I saw her unable to be a mother, not just because of race, due to what was passed on to her. We learn parenting from our parents, white or black; and Norma was severely lacking in that department. The sympathy for June became admiration, your biological parents love and nurturing is important; but look at what she received. The extended black family she has is beautiful, Peggy Moss believed in her. I share the same thought June expressed to her Aunt, "she wouldn't have gone to Harvard, become a Producer for Frontline or be as strong as she is if she was raised by her."
Finally, I read the reviews from the critics, what most missed this cannot have a happy ending in the 2 hours, and it shouldn't have. It's a social secret this country isn't able or refuses to acknowledge; we need to realistically look at our country's history. Most importantly, admit we are all related in God's eyes.
West Chester, PA
After reading all the comments about this wonderful show I was amazed that no one commented on the generational issue about mothers leaving daughters so clearly demonstrated in this story. June's story is complex because it contains elements of three issues. The race issue and the class issue are perhaps the most obvious to most, but we need to look at patterns within families as well. I trust the pattern is broken with June's generation.
Several people commented about June's statement about being black while her mother is white. This is a good example of how many holes there are in the "race" concept. So called African American's in this country are of mixed parentage. None of us is of all African blood unless we just came from Africa (or our parents did). Given the fact that I agree with those who say there is no such thing as "race" I think we are better defined as "Multi-cultural". Most of us have European blood, African blood, and Native American blood. That is clearly a mix of several cultures.
Thanks to June and Frontline for keeping the subject alive and doing it with such a quality program.
I'm perplexed by the classifigatory system we use to describe one another. I learned that the term 'race' means an isolated breeding group. In the past, geographic barriers such as mountains and large bodies of water provided copious amounts of isolation, but in the modern world it is generated by social conditions. The perplexing part for me is that people speak of race as if it is real rather than a social mechanism. Now, while it is true that we exhibit different genetic characteristics with varying frequencies, it seems that the only ones of consequence in our society are hair texture and skin coloration. A very interesting issue of Discovery explored the possibility of dividing people into racial groups according to less conventional hereditary traits such as finger prints, lactose intolerance, and certain immunities. It really illustrated how absurd this sort of classification is.
I liked Secret Daughter so much, because it too points out this absurdity. I have many secret relationships in my own family tree. Some have been unearthed and others will never see the light of day. All of them are planted deep within shame and ignorance. The largest portion of my family tree
is the root system which 'lies' safely underground, guarded from prying eyes.
Dear FRONTLINE and June Cross,
We found this program to be very captivating and moving. June Cross is an exceptional person who has turned a very tragic childhood into an inspiration. In the face of adversity she has triumphed by finding the good in her family, as well as the bad. She has a lot to be proud of (her own accomplishments, as well as her heritage). Although we wanted to hate her mother for what she had done, we found that her mother was extremely honest and forthright about her behavior and feelings. She also experienced difficulties as a child, and we could not ignore this as a reason for her behavior.
We congratulate June Cross on producing an incredible documentary, and for her candor and bravery.
Ms. Cross's story is the story of America ...it can be a story of inter racial families , mixed ethnic background , good and bad , but all human . I feel ever more determined to teach my children that we are all one and the same ,with the same fears and doubts , hopes and goals. We all have to experience and learn from stories like June's so that mankind as a whole can evolve past ignorance and prejudice. All the time I was watching I kept saying "thats my story " even though the facts were different . Thanks for telling us your story. We must all tell ours and make each other stronger and proud to be a part of the history of man.
Dear FRONTLINE and June Cross,
For me, this episode was poignant, moving, honest, sad, and hopeful. In 1940, June's mother had very limited choices. While June's biological father was beating her mother with infant June in her arms, the white men from the bar looked at June's mother as if she deserved to be beaten. How horrifying! How can the world be so color coded? So what if she loved a "black" man! More power to her! Love who you want. It was obvious to me that giving June to friends in Atlantic City was very difficult. In a society that hypocritcally treated mulattos as outcasts, June's mother made a noble, yet very difficult decision. Isn't it funny that June's "white" family were happy to meet and get to know her, while her "black" family were not as interested (other than her half sister, of course.) The irony's of life shall iron us all flat until we learn to look at people as people and not as clothes to be put away by color and texture.
It was kind of a strange sensation to see such a powerful, but yet, sensitive show, that had roots from near my home town of Pocatello, Idaho. About ten minutes South of The Fort Hall reservation of the Bannock/Shoshone reservation.
I understood the frustration and anger that June felt, but also understood why she reserved herself, from lashing out at her mother very harshly, because of her Grandmother's conditioning and lack or nurturing. June's mother was conditioned to react the way she did, at the period time she did. The social pressures, clashed with her own feelings, and that makes for a very difficult life for all involved. It does not justify anything, it's just that, sadly, there was not any other mind frame at that time.
Like her mother said, White people tend to be more critical or judgmental of everyone, not just the black race. I can say that, because I am white... Everything tends to be based on surface appearance, rather than what is in the heart. Not all of us, just most of us...
To see June's mother talk so frankly, and honestly at the end, was very wonderful, and emotional. For the first time in her life, June got to hear the things that she never thought she would.
I would be heart breaking not to see them resolve any emotional or social issues between them, before her mother passes away. It would leave nothing but regrets and heart ache that could be healed... NOW!
As long as there is life, there is hope.
I caught Secret Daughter and watched spell bound for the second time (12/29/98) and learned even more from it with my second viewing.
June Cross is a most amazing, warm, courageous, intelligent human being. No decent human being could view her story without feeling some of her pain and fear. Although at first I did not have much sympathy for her Mom Norma, but as I thought more about what she had done, how well she had chosen a substitute mother for June, a mother who actually did a better job, than perhaps Norma could have done, and the realistic reasons why she hid the truth about June, I changed my mind. I admire Norma's courage for baring her soul. Truly many times, in a rush to simple judgement we forget that things are truly not "black and white". The truth, or the best approximation to it is often something in between --in the grey area.
A experienced a similar shift in view about her father Stumpy. When I first heard that he was beating Norma I was outraged and felt no sympathy for him. Then later when I heard about the circumstances and got the big picture. I could understand his frustration and although violence of that type is abhorrent, I was able to see him as a victim also, but still a father who loved his daughter, and a brilliant, talented entertainer who could not reach his potential simply because he was black.
I also greatly admire the warmth and wisdom of June's brother Larry, who was in many ways abandoned, as much or more by Norma, as June herself.
They both grew up to be genuine feeling "true humans" head and shoulders above the average members of the society that looked down upon, ostracized, hated & feared them.
Secret Daughter was above everything else, for me at least, about individuals, as well as about black comedians, mother daughter relations, racial relations, courage, true humanity.
I like to remind people that no one person should ever be viewed as a spokesperson of their race or religion or country. View each person as an individual, good or bad, or in between. If you dislike them, that's ok, as long as it is based on how they "act" something over which people usually have some control, not things like the color or texture of their hair or complexion, the shape of their eyes, or where they were born. These latter things we do not have any control or choice.
June, thank you very much,
Very well done. As with most Frontline episodes, I was thoroughly impressed with the detailed look at a tough subject. June's remark that she "always had a thing against Mormons" surprised me a bit. Up to that point in the broadcast I was convinced that here's a person that judges people individually, not as a group. I imagine that Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, etc., all have their peculiarities, as seen by outsiders. Her comment left me wondering...if June Cross hasn't been able to judge people as individuals (based on her life story), will mankind ever judge people as individuals?
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
I have seen this program twice now, and still find nuances and subtle body language "comments" I had not seen before. The program is fascinating. I do not think that June is evasive or has an easy answer to the final question of her acceptance. What can she say. It was done, she had no control over her childhood and had no control over the actions of the adults around her. For someone who had to live under those circumstances, I think June is remarkably well adjusted. Yes, she will have some unresolved issues of attitudes towards whites, but frankly why wouldn't she? If she seems evasive at times, well sometimes there are no easy answers or the answers are too complex to explain. Her mother's continued "distant" attitude is her mother's problem and probably is extended to other family members and friends as well. Her mother creates her own sense of reality and rationalization and will never recognize the problems and pain she caused her daughter. Again, I find June Cross a remarkable person...
Having grown up a Mormon in Blackfoot, Idaho, I was naturally interested to learn that June Cross' grandmother lived in that part of the country, and that Cross' mother was also a Mormon who grew up there. I was a little surprised that after so much diligent effort expended to come to terms with her maternal heritage, Cross apparently made little attempt to understand her grandmother's Mormon faith. Although some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (including, apparently, Cross' grandmother) are indeed racist, such an attitude is contrary to the official teachings of the Church, and a black skin is not considered a sign of original sin as Cross' claims. Although this false view may have unfortunately been held by Cross' grandmother, as well as others prominent in the Church, I would have expected someone of Cross' intellect to see beyond the superficial, and to portray the Mormon position on this subject more accurately.
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