Biracial Portraits

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This program stirred up many emotions in me that I was not even aware of. I am the bi-racial child of a White woman and a Black man. My mother is the second youngest in a family of thirteen children, and I have only ever met one of my aunts and one of my uncles. I don't even know all of their names. For even though I was born in the late seventies, a time that was much more accepting than the notoriously conservative nineteen fifties, my mother was still practically disowned for marrying my father. The more I hear about the early days of their relationship the more I am struck by the racial barriers that, while growing up, I hardly realized existed.

I never had a problem reconciling my two cultural inheritances, and it never occured to me that anyone else would have such a problem. However, I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place well known for the acceptance and general, well, niceness of it population. It wasn't until I moved to Boston, a big city that actually had Black neighborhoods and White neighborhoods, that I was aware of being not Black enough or not even White at all.

It really sickens me that in this day and age, what with all the real, important problems our society is faced with, that people are still wasting their time worrying about such a stupid trivial thing as the "problem" of race mixing. And this stupidity and ignorance comes just as much from the Black community as it does the White community. It really hurts that half of my family probably doesn't even know I exist.

June's story really got me thinking about my family. Maybe I'll pick up my own movie camera and seek out those who didn't want to seek out me.

Vanessa Marquetti
Albuquerque, NM

I found your documentary, "Secret Daughter" quite interesting. I wish that there was more written and filmed about bi-raciality. There is, in fact, a very significant population out there who are just waiting to "come out of the close."

I come from a people in this country that most people know very little about. For almost a century, they preserved their mulatto-quadroon heritage. However, because of the "one drop" law, they were considered Negroes. Throughout history, they were the "first" of their race in many endeavors. Even up to the 1960's, the "mixed" breeds lead the march for equal rights in this country.

Society, which is drawn along color and racial lines, sees only black or white. Unfortunately, those appellations do not describe my multi-racial heritage. While there are thousands like me world-wide, we have no recognized identity or home, except perhaps in the Carribean islands or South Africa.

Depending upon our outward appearance, we are forced into either black or white racial camps. Although he received bitter opposition from both sides, I thank "Tiger" Woods for drawing attention to this issue. It is deplorable that in the twenty-first century we still can not value diversity.

For most of my life, race has been a "burning" and reoccurring theme. In fact, during my adolescence, it consumed a great deal of my time and introspection. Racial identity crises can be attributed to most my pathological behavior as a youth. It has influenced the people who I dated, the people who I consorted with, and the people whose politics I espoused.

Although she looked more hispanic or mulatto, my mother was mostly Native American Cherokee), but was also one-fourth African-American, and one-fourth Scottish. My father, on the other hand, was a quadroon. He could definitely "pass" for white, but was adamant about being called "colored". His mother was second-generation Irish and half-Cherokee Indian and his father was half African American, part Blackfoot Indian, and part white (although, he too looked mulatoo.)

People ask me if I am African-American, hispanic, Arab, Sicilian, part-white, or mulatoo. For the most part, I consider myself a Black-Indian. I take part in 'Pow Wows' and Kwanza, but because neither one of these cultures recognize my European heritage, it too leaves me feeling less than whole. As you can see, I am in a quandary.

For various reasons, I have been shown prejudice by both whites and blacks. And frankly, I do not feel that I am fully one or the other. Yet, our society does not have any box for me to check except "Other". And "Other" is politically and socially neutral and powerless. That says much about our perceptions about people of mixed origin. I think you can understand now why "mixed raciality" is so important to me. I am quite interested in additional dialogue about the subject and would be proud to share my history with others.

Burlington, MA

Dear FRONTLINE and Ms. Cross,
I watched your program for the first time last night. The subject matter intrigued me greatly as I am on my own journey to document the circumstances surrounding my own adoption and early development. Two years ago, I met two ladies (at an art gallery) and began sharing my manuscript with them. It was then that they recounted your documentary and suggested that I watch it because our stories were similar in nature. I, too, am the product of an interracial relationship from the 1960's. However, my mother is Black and my father White. They both were living in New York at the time. My conception came at a time when it was unheard of for a white man to even entertain the thought of having a relationship with a woman of any other race than his own. Although this was the case, I think that the thought of a Black woman bearing children by a white man is less intrusive or threatening than the reverse (white women and black men).

I am at a crossroad here because I am not sure what the real reason for my being placed for adoption. My adoptive mother is the cousin of my birth mother; so, it was easier to keep this little secret "within the family". For me, this experience has left a somewhat bad taste in my mouth about keeping these matters secret. Up to the age of 8, I had no knowledge of my adoption until an over-zealous (probably drunken) relative spilled the beans. What a way to learn about your life! I spent the next 12 to 16 years seeking answers, being curious, and denying the truth. During that time, I spoke with my birth mother to ascertain the circumstances that prompted her to give me up for adoption and have learned a lot. I've even recently (within the last 7 years) attempted to contact my birth father--with success, but he refuses to speak with me. Needless to say, that this situation has been a terrible experience for me. I am thirty years old now and have made an effort to reconcile the moment that I was confronted [with].

Kudos to you for confronting the issue and getting resolution, closure. You and your mother are brave women and I wish you both much success in your quest to mend the wounds.

Dear FRONTLINE and June,
Your documentary was deeply personal so it would be foolish to critique it. Like you, I grew up in a world where my biracial background was the defining center of my life. It is a unique perspective because race becomes de-mystified but you are left to create a complex identity. The more intelligent you are, the more elaborate is this world you assemble inside yourself. As I am sure you know, it is a source of strength as well as weaknesses. The problem lies in the old saying: "The curse of acceptance is complacency and the curse of rejection is delusion." Your documentary illustrates the truth of that saying. Our pride makes it difficult to see the weakness in our own faulty wisdom even when exposing the weaknesses in others. But that is what family is all about. In the secret conversations you and your mother have, perhaps without even speaking, I know your deepening understanding of your history will grow. That is truly a thing to celebrate.

Richard Young
Eugene, Oregon

I was sitting at home, channel surfing, and I happened upon June Cross' autobiographical documentary "Secret Daughter." I was mesmorized. Although I was fortunate enough to have my mother in my life on a full-time basis, I was abandoned by my biological father. I probably will never know him and I doubt he even thinks about me.

He has not acknowledged my existence for 24 years.

Because of my dark skin, many people assume I am a black girl with "real good hair." But once they look at me up close and see my Korean mother standing by my side, the expressions on their faces range from surprise to disgust. As an amerasian, I understand the what divided racial lines can do to a person's outlook on life and their self-esteem. I can say I'm black and no one would call me liar. But to say I'm Korean, well that's another story. I could never live in Korean as a Korean. Although the Korean community in my hometown is accepting, I still feel isolated and alone. There are many like me. I just want to applaud Ms. Cross for giving the public a bird's eye view into the life of those who live on both sides of the color spectrum.

Tuajana Nicholas
Mobile, AL


I was riveted to the set during Secret Daughter. I needed a drink of water but sat there parched, unable to leave for even a minute to quench my thirst. June Cross was blessed with a rich American history and she has shared her blessings and her pain with America and we are better for it. Shame on the critics who called her "remote."

I related personally to June's story on three counts: I was raised a Mormon and in a Mormon community. I have two nieces who are biracial. I gave a child up for adoption.

My nieces are terrific girls, beautiful and smart. One niece has a great home life but the other is not so fortunate. The problems do not stem from race but other tensions indemic of families.

My hopes for my nieces and for the daughter that I will never know are that they will possess the intelligence and maturity that June Cross demonstrated. I also hope that as adults they will live in a world that is more compassionate than the world into which they were born.

As for the Mormons, when I first heard of their old policies towards blacks I was shocked and confused. Not to defend the wrong-doings of the past, but to give another viewpoint, let me just say that in my Sunday school classes I was always taught to love others as I love myself, to bless them that curse me and to do good to those who would harm me. I feel terrible that many blacks have the false impression that Mormons are fundamentally racist. As there are so few blacks in Mormon communities I know that most Mormons are blind to black-white relations. When I moved away from the Mormon community I realized that I was branded a racist without my having to do or say anything, simply by being a Mormon from Utah. Isn't that prejudice in itself? The past is imperfect. I rejoice in the future.

Good luck to you June Cross. Thank you.

Los Angeles

What can I say? I am always impressed by your programs and the great influence potential for your audience and our society. I say this because I am the mother of daughter who is a mix of a great many ethnic varieties, but in this society she would be labeled as malotto or just black. Her biological father is african american and I am "white." She was born out of an unmarried relationship of several years when I was 24 years old. I am now married to my soul mate, who is hispanic with whom I've had 2 other children. We are quite a mix, but its so beautiful and I couldn't be more proud of my family. For some wonderful reason I have always had the knowledge that the color of someone's skin, the money in their pocket, or the family they come matters little in life. I wasn't raised that way, I come from a fundamentally racist family, but somehow I came out believing otherwise. Thank God. Since leaving the nest at 18, I have struggled with issues of race tirelessly trying to understand them. I believe thats

Stacey M.

I regret that I missed the program, I'll definitely be watching for a rebroadcast. This particular topic, however, is near and dear to my heart, and I find it very refreshing that such a thing can be discussed. I am a multi-racial woman, my mother is very fair, blond, blue-eyed. My father is medium-dark. Growing up in Cincinnati was filled with interesting experiences. Casual passers-by would ask my mother if we were adopted, as if we were scarcely sentient beings, incapable of comprehending their rude question. It rarely occured to any of them that we might indeed be natural-born to this pale white woman. The shock and even revulsion when this fact was revealed was at times unbearable. One thing, however, I was quite fortunate to have experienced, was acceptance among my peers on my own street. Throughout my brief life (I'm 28), I have seen a major turnaround in attitude, from revulsion to tolerance, even acceptance in some. I was present in July of 1996 when a small group of multi-ethnic/racial people gathered to protest the US Census' method of racial classification, the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere. This is a far cry from having parents deny their children the opportunity to get to know me.

Take heart, the world is coming around.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE and Dear June,
Last night, in the middle of the night I watched your program. It touched so many feelings that I had to react. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and am living in the Netherlands Antilles for the last 20 years.

June is my age. My heritage is multiracial and multinational.

At certain moments of the documentary I was outraged, at certain points I cried about the predicaments people were put in; I once more had to admire the courage of my grandparents and the compassion of their families. They (a white dutch woman and a black south american man) married in 1919 at which time they could have been sentenced to jail had they not lived in my "liberal" country.

It is good that the very confusing issue of children of mixed heritage are finally confronted. I am lucky to live and to have lived in societies where at least legally there were not the tremendous obstructions that I conclude have confronted humanity in the USA.

The search that June started and the journey she had to make is similar to those searches and journeys that many of us have made and are still making. It is hardbreaking work but in the end makes us to be global citizens. That effect alone might tell us why it is necessary to go through these hardships.

Todays world is torn apart by strife. The realization that we are not a people from one particular place, but that in our genes we carry many nations and many races should make us aware that what this world needs is acceptance of each other.

Dear June,
Thank you for opening your wounds to the world. Thank you for not blaming but for wrestling to understand. Thank you for taking the anger and turning it in to an adventure of discovery. I was deeply moved by your personal struggle and triumphs. I felt your pain and your strength. I admire your courage. You see, I am white and my brother is in an interracial relationship. Although as a family we were accepting and several times went to him pleading his return, I believe he felt he had to choose which world he would live in. He is step parenting his black child but has abandoned his 3 white children. In making his choice, we have lost a brother and his children have lost their dad.

The story of your dad hits home as my dad and I were born and raised in Phillie. During the 30's and 40's, my dad, while earning money shining shoes, entertained people for coin by tap dancing until WWII when he joined the navy. As a young girl in the 50's and 60's, I lived in an interracial neighborhood and loved black folk. As your mother so rightly put it, "they are a jolly people" with rich inner strength. In fact, I was totally unaware that I was white or that there was any racial taboo until my black friend's mother told me so. In the late 60's, I realized that most young black people not only didn't like me but actually hated me because of my color, accused me of oppressing them and blamed me personally for their painful past. I was so confused.

Hence, I embrace your love story with all of its struggle. Of your relationship with your brother, new found sister, and step father who truly loves and accepts you. The reality with which you portray your extended family in Idaho and the fragments of family in Philadelphia. I am saddened by the denial that you endured about being Norma's birth child and grateful for Peggy and Paul. I was especially touched by the frames of film you found in front of the Apollo Theater of your dad with you in such tender display of love. I am proud that you persisted and now together you and your mother are working toward healing your pasts. Al- though some say your mother is cold, she allowed us because of her love and trust in you to see and hear her pain for believing she had to make those choices and to see you arm in arm in love, acknowledgement and acceptance flooded me with emotion and made me cry.

June, you are an incredible woman, and I would love to talk with you. God has kept you and I thank Him for it. Thanks again for sharing your life with "strangers" for through our experiences we find we are not strangers after all.

Valerie A. Spelman
Douglass Township, PA

I began watching June Cross' story when coincidentally running across it on PBS only because she looked so much like my newest sister in law; mannerisms, voice patterns and even her stunning smile are familiar. After watching a few minutes of the program I realized there was far more to this story than simple familiarity and I finished watching, enthralled.

Growing up in a poor, caucasian family of 12 in Minneapolis, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded brought up in a very diverse neighborhood. Certainly the "box which every black person lives in" is a reality I've witnessed time and again, heart-wrenching though it may be. In addition, I've no illusions about how my own blonde, Nordic appearance has opened doors for me which are often closed to those of African American descent.

Being in a 12 Step program the past eight years I understand the courage and overwhelming emotion which so often accompany our personal journeys of self discovery. I applaud June for sharing her sometimes joyful, often painful past with us via Frontline. There comes a point in each person's life when the time is right to 'break the cycles' of debilitating and unhealthy states of being which we all share ... few are those who have the courage to begin that journey and even fewer who continue though the road may be unpleasant.

I say to you, June Cross, Bravo! For yet again bringing the sting of our own racism to the forefronts of our minds (for admitting there is actually a problem is the first step in any recovery) and for having the courage to make yourself vulnerable and open to opinions of all sorts, be they positive or negative.

May the Light that shines upon us all smile upon you ... for in you shines the spirit of the Great One who sees no barriers between any man, woman or child. God Bless.

Mary Christian
Kansas City, KS

I cried as I watched June's story, especially the part where her mother explains (or someone did - the tears blur my my memory) that June's mother gave her up to live in a black family because she loved her and it was the best thing for her. I am crying even now as I write this. I heard the same explanation - she loved me and it was the best she could do - from my mother as to why she placed my brother, sister and myself in a foster home for three years. My mother later came and reclaimed us when she married my stepfather.

There's no racial element to my story. My mother was poor white trash who tried to better herself. Today she is so proud of me. I'm the daughter who made it. I am a manager in a Fortune 500 company with an MBA, married to a man who is a VP of another Fortune 500 company who also has his MBA. I am everything she wanted me to be, everything she wasn't, and yet my life and identity revolve around that fateful decision she made years ago.

I have not completed the journey of forgiveness and acceptance as June has. My relationship with my mother is both Peggy and Norma rolled into one. Pain and longing mixed with forgiveness and desire to something to hold on to today, before it is too late to have a relationship.

My heart throbs with the dull ache of an old wound tonight, reawakened as I watched June live out elements of my life. I found words for the chasm that exists between myself and my extended family - the gulf of the classes. I found hope in seeing June's bond with her mother. I found challenge to move on and forgive. Reading the bulletin board I now know there are others like me. I thought I was alone, but I'm not.

Kansas City

Dear FRONTLINE, I couldn't peel my eyes off of "Secret Daughter". Not only because it was a very interesting story, but because my childhood was held behind secrets as well. Instead of the secret being racial in nature, it was a crime committed against my Mother too embarassing too reveal...rape. I learned at the age of 21 that the person who I called "Dad" was not my real father. Instead it was a rapist whose crime still impacts my Mother's life to this day. Someday, I would like to face him and only hope that I could inherit June's courage and strength when that day comes. Thanks to June and PBS!

Omaha, Ne.

As a "white" woman I have lost a few "friends" after I announced that I am marrying a Chinese man. Oh well. As my mother says, "You win some, you lose some." After the language barrier, cultural barrier, ethnic and racial barriers, he and I realized that the human condition is fated for all of us. We are born. We feel. We love. We hate. We forgive. We die. After a while I stopped seeing how different he was and I noticed how similar we are. What could be considered hurtful or negative is taken positively with a dash of humour. For instance, we joke about the hats we wear in the sun- mine so that I don't burn, his so that he doesn't tan any more. Silly? Yes. But love is not.

Tirzah Ahee
Toronto, Canada

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