Biracial Portraits

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I am speechless. An array of emotions assaulted me as I watched this program. happy and sad all at the same time. June Cross is a jewel in PBS's crown. Her ability to tell a story that close to her heart with the objectivity, and depth was amazing. It is a shame not that she had to learn about a box, but rather that
there was a box at all.

I could see many of the issues as mother-daughter and many
as racial. How sad that many of us see everything as racial.
Sometimes it is just people being people. Not Black or White or Hispanic or Asian. Just people. Sometimes we as a nation get caught up in multiculturalism to the point that we forget we are Americans. All Americans. I dearly hope that we donot have to have a war to restore our national pride and unify us as a nation.

How sad for June's grandmother's that they really never knew what a dynamic lady she is. How wonderful that her mother is taking the time to find out. June, I am a better person for having watched this. Thank you.
Janet E. Tabares
Sugarland, Texas

Dreary, dragged out piece. I'm an African-American woman of a similar time period, yet I couldn't emphasize with this heavily over-stated documentary with long solitary walks on the beach. All I could think was, "who cares?". The topic was either not strong enough to merit more than personal introspection (an obvious sore point with this young woman), or the word editor never came up in staff meetings. Not bad, not good, just -- useless.

That was not only one of the best films about race relations ever made,but one of the best films ever made. A triumph. Moving, brutally honest, and challenging beyond words.

All stereotypes lain slain by the boards. Only humanity emerges. One I am prouder to be part of. Cheers,
Joe hamill


My initial reaction was of sympathy for both mother and daughter
since I am the mother of two interracial sons.
As I listened to the mother, I began to feel
more sympathy for the daughter, and to
wonder - like Aunt Sheila - where her anger
was buried. Why didn't she express her anger
more strongly? I have a strong relationship
with my own mother, who accepted her
grandsons immediately. But her mother,
my grandmother, disowned me, and willed
herself to die just days before my first
son was born. Every interracial family,
and the children, has a story filled with
sadness and anger. But they are very often
very strong families, too. They can be
successful. Ours has been.
Barbara Nicholson
Boston MA

I just finished watching "Secret Daughter." I felt that the documentary was well done (although it could have been about a half hour shorter) We can all feel the pain that June had to over come. Especially now that she can love and forgive her mother. My husband is also biracial. His mother gave him up at 6mos of age. He is compelled to search for his biological parents. June has given him incentive to start his search.
D.S., Mays Landing, New Jersey

I thought that it was a very warm and helpful piece, I read the comments from the N.Y. Times and I disagree with what the reviewer said about the legnth because this
wasn't suppose to be a Movie of the week, it was a look at somones's life, it was informal and a journey. This is what PBS is about. Not every show has to be fast and kept moving, that is what makes it a show to reflect upon. Yasmain

I was truly touched by this story; by the courage that both
women showed in coming forth with their histories. My son
is dating an African American girl and I asked him to watch,
but he could not be urged. (They are only 14 and at this age
they think they are invincable, I must remember.) Things are
quite different today. There is a truth here, which I must
recognize and applaud: that the hardships these women
suffered paved a path for those like my son. He is now able
to judge a person on his or her merit and not his or her
color. The irony is this: had he watched, he would have had
no sympathy.
For loving in an unloving time, I must thank you.
But I'm sorry for the loss that unloving time caused you.
I cannot imagine what giving up a child must have cost,
nor can I imagine how losing a mother must have felt.
Thank you for a wonderful, timely program.
L. Dunn
North Carolina

I found the entire story extremely tragic. No one has come out a winner in thissituation. The mother comes from a world which is truly inaccessible to thedaughter and the father's world is not one in which she will ever be truly
comfortable either.

My advice to one and all would be to seek professional help in
order to come to terms with reality. The mother needs to deal with her brilliantlyrealized desire to live well and be part of the Euroamerican establishment. The daughter has to accept the fact that her mother did not want her and was notwilling to accept life in a lower socio-economic class in order to keep her. Larry Storch must acknowledge that he participated in this tragedy in order to further a successful career and live well. The half-brother needs to acknowledge that he also wanted out of a sordid situation. But most of all, the daughter needs to understand that she must make her own life and stop trying to anchor herself in
sand. No matter how far she goes in her field, she will n

I applaud everyone who agreed to speak as openly as they could on this program. It took guts. And I wish June all of the happiness in the world. She cannot change the past; but she can change the future.
D. A.
Seattle, Washington

Dear Frontline,
"Secret Daughter" was a captivating program. Having been in
interracial relationships during the "forced busing years"
in Boston during the 1970's I could really relate and
appreciate much of the race issues.

But I believe this program transcended race. It was about
family. So many of us come from dysfunctional/disjointed
families....alcoholic parent(s), abuse, neglect, "secrets",
poverty, pain, etc.... this program helped raise our
collective consciousness about human relationships.

Thanksgiving is a family time....but for some it can be a
time to face their "secrets".
Michael Ledoux
Boston MA

"That which you hate you become"
I found June's personal revelations gripping and very much enjoyed
the frontline presentation.

One moment seemed to stick out for me - June spoke about how "white people"all seem to judge blacks by their skin color --- and she was so certain that her conclusions were correct because she had lived as an honorary white. Gee June, why is it right for you to assume something about all white people - particularly when that which you accuse "them" of is what you yourself seem to be practicing. I am tired of this racial myopia from all sides.
Moraga, Ca

Bravo!bravo!Frontline. Just maybe this can be the start of a dialogue that is long overdue. i am reminded that racism is alive and living comfortably in America. we all live with ambiguities. Some of these we put to rest and others we put to the
test. as the parent of bi-racial children i was so pleased to see this subject dealt with in a mature, intelligent and sensitive voice instead of on a loud,abusive, and manipulative talkshow. This show will become a permenant part of my library. Again, thank you.
J. M. San Diego

This was very interesting to me in that I am related to Norma and did not know any of her history. My mother, Dorla Steffenson Hodge, is a cousin to Norma. She remembers Norma as being very cold and spoiled as well as Aunt June spoiling Norma whenever she was around. Maybe that is the reason Norma was so distant to her daughter, doubled by the affect of the stigma of the times of having a biracial daughter. . The pressures must have been tremendous - and not growing up in a loving home doubled the confusion. My sincere regards to June Cross for having the courage to tell the story, and to Norma for the courage to put herself under such
scrutiny. In 1964, my family traveled to the Long Beach area and called Norma. She was very distant and did not want to be bothered with relatives. Maybe all the problems in her life is why she didn't want to see us.
P.S. It was great to see pictures of my great-grandparents
and other relations on T.V. My mom and Norma look alot alike.
Cindy Hodge Schaures
LaGrande OR

After watching Secret Daughter with my friends we had a discussion about the show for an hour. I couldn't wait to wake up today and tell Frontline what
a great program I thought this was! I thought that this documentary was one of the most compelling documentaries I've ever seen. It was so moving, heartwrenching, interesting, and wonderful.
I thank June Cross for allowing us tolearn about her life and her family's lives. It should be shown to every classroom in the United States to help them learn the complexities of racism and some interesting history. Shame on Jerry Lewis -- June Cross, you let him off easy ... that blatant rip-off artist.
I hope he pays for your next documentary and I can't wait to see it!
M. Flanagan Los Angeles, CA

I rushed to find this web site today, trying to keep the faint hope with which JuneCross' extraordinarily rich and moving film left me. And I found the grainy little portrait of June with her mother, and was reduced to tears again. I am so afraid that the conversation will grind to a halt. Ms. Cross' story of her part in the
conversation -- of, in fact, BEING the conversation -- was overwhelmingly painful. But she's talking. Perhaps it's almost incidental that the film is as compelling and beautifully made as it is, or that it conveys such heartbreaking courage and hurt; it's the fact of the conversation.
But when Ms. Cross would laugh, warmly, inviting further confidences, while her mother defended such cruelty ... I still don't know if I was weeping for Ms. Cross, or for my own sorrow, or for sheer rage.

I was surfing channels last night and came across Secret
Daughter.I did not touch the remote again for 2 hours.
The show was riveting. June Cross's work was honest,
human, sad, happy, extensive and any other adjective
that describes a job well done. It was great on two levels,
her personal story was facinating and as a researcher she
put together a complete package. Thank you for the best
show I have seen in years.

Excellent story! I hope the mother can truly overcome the barriers she created herself and discover the rewards of accepting the past, her children and the present without regrets. We
all wish our lives to be one way, but most of us experience a life that is quite different from our dreams. (the mother's wish for fame & all that she gave up for it - the children she produced are a living legacy.)
Steve Reed

I just finished watching the Frontline program put together by June Cross and hermother. I was absolutely riveted to the TV. It is a story that all white
Americans should see--the divisions that such bigotry causes in families. I livedand still live that story for the same reasons. I have not seen or spoken with my parents in over 35 years. I also married a black man in 1960 and have a wonderful son. We just recently separated but are still good friends and we had a really good marriage and good experiences but always the divisions are there--the "boxes" that June talked about.

I just wanted to share how much the show meant to me--I am still almost in tears as I write this. Thank you June and Norma.
Dorothy Hill
San Francisco, CA.

A sad bit of wailing by a self indulgent young woman. She
claims to be a "black" woman who is born of a "white woman. In point of fact, she is not black, but is a mixture of Negro and Caucasian. She has enjoyed the enormous scope of opportunities which have come her way. A far more interesting subject is her mother. What caused such a rebellious lifestyle? Is there something in the female nature to shock her family and her culture? What thought processes guided her search for a desired lifestyle at the expense of
her daughter? Let us hope that there will be a sequel which examines a very real cultural problem.

I think June Cross is one of the most fearless and thought provoking
journalist out there. And I guess I wanted to let somebody know about that. A brilliant project, Ms./Mrs. Cross!
I have never done anything on the computer like
this so I don't know if it will be read by you, or anybody, in that case? But your show kept me awake last night and that hasn't happened with any type of television
program for a long time. Thanks for putting yourself out there.
A S.

I thought the film was beautiful. I felt relief while watching. Finally, an honest
portrayal of what it was like "back then". I could see right through what many
people did and did not say in this film. It gave a clear picture of how things
were 50 years ago, and how struggles for us (African-Americans) have and have notchanged. I was moved by June's and Norma's strength in times of rampant hatred.
Though, I found it somewhat disturbing, given all the struggles brought to the
open, many white people, including Norma, still do not understand what it was (and is) like to be rejected and ignored in a hateful, racist society. But, I congratulate both of them (and many others) on their survival through these times.
Kelly Allen

What a journey! Perhaps greedy to hear more, I was disappointed that you were not able to explore further the gulf you discovered, that of the class division within the black community.

You belong to a generation of affirmative action. Like all
minorities that have succeeded in America, you have moved
out of the center city, the birthplace of your father.

You are adrift. For the want of one, forced to create your
own role model. Please consider continuing you story and
help us all to better understand this new world.

Richard Damrow
Appleton, WI

Thank you for inviting us into "the conversation."
I hope JC has had the oportunity to visit Europe, Asia, Africa, South
America. To put the "rejection" element in a perspective basis more
elemental than the one the advantage of education has provided.
I mean by this that if one will go one level "down" to the sheer
physical fact of numbers (majority/minority)--more than three quarters of the world's population is of mixed hue. It is primarily in the U.S. that race is thought of as oppositional rather than of the "mix." I was touched by "Secret Daughter," for reasons I would prefer to say directly to June Cross. (That is my very best "Congratulations.") And, the
comments about the gap between class is a lead into a mattter that must be pursued, investigated and illuminated.
June's mother seems to have been quite mislead. She is beautiful, was beautiful and will grow and become more beautiful, but now because she loved enough to overcome superficial considerations. Thank you June, for sharing your search; I hope you will always be filled with this light.
Barbara A.Hairston

After watching June Cross's story I was quite disturbed.
In my opinion, June Cross is a beautiful, intelligent,
strong and independent woman. She is a daughter to be proud
of and not to be hidden or denied. (She also looks damned
good for her age). It is so shameful that societal
pressures caused so much pain for this poor, innocent little
child. However, Peggy and Paul obviously did a beautiful job
in bringing her up and making her feel loved. I think she
now has a wonderful family. At the last "family reunion"
there were people of all colors. That should be the American
Doylestown PA

Glad to see June didn't take the bait from "aunt" Sheila Gregory and declare a
hatred for her mother and all white people. Instead, June stood up for the true, if
conflicted, feelings in her heart. We need more people with this kind of honesty
and forgiveness. People like June make the world a better place, especially when they reject the understandably bitter attitudes of others.

A rich and powerful study of some of the chasms that divide
humanity, right down to its most fundamental unit. All of the
participants in the film deserve our sincere gratitude for this
courageous and incredibly intimate portrait of an American
family. This could have been one of the media's finest hours,
responsibly exposing the pain of racism from both sides, and
prompting a dialog of "assumed" differences. Simply put...
I was moved to tears!
C.J. Hickman
Phoenix. AZ

June, your program was outstanding!!! We had planned to go out last evening and onlyby chance stayed home. We couldn't move away from the TV once your program
started, where frequently we fall asleep while watching what the commercial
networks dish out. You touched our souls and hearts and we can't stop thinking
about it. You are to be congratulated!! And we thank you and your mother for
"coming out" and telling your story so frankly and in such a moving manner.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Agnes Hasting and Edward Carome

This truly remarkable and powerful documentary, coming as it does in the shadow of the OJ Simpson trial(s) and in the wake of the LA riots and the Rodney King trials,shines some much-needed light on the unique relationship that Blacks and Whitesalone seem to share in America.

Without question, the relationship that June Cross
has had with her mother mirrors White America's love-hate relationship withBlacks. No other group has contributed as much to and reaped as little in returnfrom American culture as Black people have; why this should be remains one of thegreat mysteries of our culture... I salute her bravery in bringing her story to the

It must be noted, however, that while she refers to herself as Black
throughout the film, she is half White-- the same amount as she is Black. Perhapsif more of us-- Black and White-- could see ourselves this way, at least in aspiritual sense, we could begin to bridge the gulf that divides us.
Sam Cotten
Santa Monica, CA

I teach at New York University in Metropolitan Studies and Museum Studies.
Every fall I teach a course called Women in the Urban Environment. We
read a lot about race, ethnicity and gender. I saw June Cross' Secret
Daughter las night and thought it was WONDERFUL!!! It's one of the most
articulate, thoughtful and honest documents about race I've seen in a
long time. I hope I can show it in my class next fall. I admire June
Cross for her ability to "keep the conversation going" with her mother. I
don't think I'd be able to do the same. Cross captured an amazingly
objective and poignant portrayal of her mother--at the same time narcassistic,
self-involved, even racist but also loving and a person who truly believed
she was doing the right thing for her African-American daughter. And I
think Cross is correct that it is probably because of her adoptive family
that she turned out as accomplished and self-confident as she did. What
an incredible story.
Suzanne Wasserman, PhD--Faculty Fellow

I found myself completely enthralled! To watch June Cross conduct the interviewwith her mother regarding her "hidden" past was like watching A doctor perform surgery on herself and a loved one simultaneously. The important question June hadto ask herself was "why is this surgery necessary?" and that was the question Junenever really answered. I knew why it would have been important for me but she seemed unclear why it was important for her. That would have been a unique perspective that was never achieved. She obviously loves her mother but she wentafter her story relentlessly even though she new how painful it would be for both of them. Why? Was it because her journalistic instincts told her that it was a great story that desreved the telling or, as the lonely shots of her walking by the
sea implies, she was searching for answers about why she never felt completelyfulfilled as a child, why she felt so rejected? I feel, even though it went unsaid, that if the surgeon's knife had not cut into this.
Y. Howze
Chicago, Illinois

Congratulations...absolutely the best I've seen on t v. I hope you will
have it on again as I did not get to tape it. I have always known t v could
be a great "educator" but mostly all we get is worthless (except pbs). This
program and June Cross should win every award there is. Thanks for a most
rewarding 2 hours. I'm glad I didn't miss it.....
c. williams

I came across "Secret Daughter" quite by accident - and am glad that I did. It was a mentally and emotionally complex story that, in the course of two hours, crosses lines, of race, family, and the many things that make up this thing called America. As I watched the movie, the thing that kept running through my mind was that this was more than just another self-indulgent work of art about "why my life is so important", it was about the pseudo-universality of these issues. I use the "pseudo" prefix because the description, much like the film, seeks to do more than the homogeneous status quo.

The people in the film were just that - people - with their guards down and up at
the same time. Makers of mistakes, givers of love and causers of anguish. People. The film was an important contribution to the discussion on race, racism, family and this thing that we call America. I was glad to have seen it and feel enhanced bythe experience. Thank you.
Chicago, Illinois

I remember June from college. A solid sister. Her story grew on me slowly. When it was over, I felt in the presence of art. She took a personal story, and made it universal through her talent. A wonderful, meaningful effort. Congratulations, June
Raymond W. Suarez

Awesome! Relevant! Vital! Timely! I can not say enough
about the airing of "Secret Daughter." The dialogue about
race in this country must be prioritized and placed at the
top of the list of things Americans need to continue to
resolve. I happy June Cross sought the truth. Thanks also
to her mother for being courageous.

I was particularly moved by the silence when June is inter-
viewing her mother and June states that her Auntie had told
her about how Blacks must learn to live in a box in this
society. POWERFUL! I am committed to progressing the
dialogue about race.
Hercules, CA

I have never experienced such an intense range of emotions when viewing
a piece of someone else's life. I cannot begin to describe the
effect the show had on me--I was dazed for several hours after seeing
it. I found myself rejoicing with June as she discovered and
confronted her two "lives" and mothers, and by the end, beginning
to understand why Norma gave her up--was it really the best possible

I've been struggling with this country's racial divides and issues
internally for quite some time. I haven't come to any conclusions yet, except that I embrace all people for who they are, and not what they are. Thank you for "Secret Daughter", it has had a profound effect on me.

On a less emotional note, I do have a couple of questions. First, is June
any more black than she is white?? She refers to herself as
a black several times, but isn't she just as much white?? Where is the line
drawn? How black or white do you have to be to qualify as one or the other?Also, why the rift between Peggy and June?
Alexandria, VA

First, thanks for hosting this discussion "space".
And thanks, too, to June for all of her hard work for pulling
the piece, Secret Daughter, together.

Being biracial myself, June's documentary definitely
struck a chord for me. I have a lot of respect for her and the
people around her. But I couldn't help but wonder what was up
with both June and her mother! June suggested at one point that
her mother giving her up for "adoption" had nothing to do with
race...that it was "a mother-daughter thing". Talk about denial.

And then June's mother, was equally myopic. To say that
seeking a better life for her
daughter was a primary reason for her giving her up didn't ring
true for me. It seemed that she was most concerned with keeping
her own life intact...white privilege and all.

Still, I thank June and all involved for putting this piece together.
I hope it does stimulate conversation about race. One topic that
regretfully wasn't examined in much detail pertains to the
reality that people like June have a right to claim heritage to both
their parents' ethnicities, not just the one society ascribes. Thanks again.
Syracuse, NY


I am joining the chorus to applaud June Cross and Frontline for "Secret Daughter." June's story is deeply affecting and an excellent window into the tragedy andironies of the race chasm in our society. As the adoptive parent (Caucasian, Jewish) of two African-American children, I deal every day with the issues which this program confronts. While it is far better now than it was when June was a child, there is still a considerable distance to go. I hope that the creating "Secret Daughter," proved to be a productive experience for June. The fact that he family was willing to engage with her so openly is a credit to them.

I would like to comment on one other note I read in the list from a person who took issue with June's identifying herself as "black," instead of as "both." I think
that person should understand that society forces that identification. Being
"mixed" in this society means you are a person of color. Having chosen to adopt ourchildren, we have become a family of color in the perception of those around us, regardless of how we might think of ourselves.

I think June amply demonstrates a recognition of what she received from all sides of her family. I was particularly struck by her recognition of the ironies involved when she visited her father's neighborhood in Philadelphia and acknowledged that "class" is as much or more of a barrier than race.
David Glotzer
Oakland, CA

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