Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
Editor’s Note: Lynn Whitfield is an Emmy Award winning actress famous for her role as Josephine Baker in 'The Josephine Baker Story.' Her other films include 'A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,' 'Gone Fishin’' and 'Eve’s Bayou.' Below is a response from her and her daughter after watching Black In America's 'The Black Woman and Family.'
My daughter Grace and I watched the premier of CNN’s groundbreaking "Black in America." I thought we would have lively discussions around many of the themes concerning black women in this country. However, when she saw the segments on interracial marriage and the children of those relationships, she had a visceral response.
I saw an activist being born.
Grace seemed ready to adapt James Brown’s black anthem to her cause: "Say it loud, I'm blended and proud!" I saw my daughter stand up for the equality of blended people like herself in all her olive-complexioned, big curly afro-like glory. She went immediately to the computer with dignity, passion and everything but a fist in the air and wrote the statement you are about to read:
Mixed in America
Grace Gibson (16-year-old daughter of Lynn Whitfield)
Although I found this segment of “Black in America” to be highly informative for the general public, I was disappointed that the interviews in the section on what it is like to be biracial in America seemed to focus only on the more negative aspects. With the eyes of the world now on Barack Obama, I had hoped for a more balanced discussion on what a positive symbol a mixed race person can project.
Obama’s candidacy embodies change and hope for so many in this country of all generations, genders, races and cultures. His message of bringing us all together as Americans is enhanced by his mixed heritage. The biracial person personifies the breaking down of racial barriers that so many fought and died for in the civil rights movement. It is what Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and what his legacy of equality imparts to us today. So one should feel nothing but pride to be mixed in America.
If parents of biracial children are too concerned about what race their children identify and associate with, the only outcome will be confusion. They should rear their children to have enough self-esteem and self-confidence to be their own persons - encouraging them to be strong children who can grow up to be strong biracial adults.
There should be no need for them to say “I am black” or “I am white” because they are neither, yet they are both. Trying to force a choice is often done just to accommodate the people around them. Why should it be so difficult to understand that a person can be and take pride in two races, ethnically and culturally? Those who cannot accept this are perpetuating the kind of ignorance that would only resegregate society by taking away a positive symbol of integration, the mixed child, and restricting him or her to an either-or status.
In a world where a biracial man may well become the next President of the United States, all that a parent should be trying to instill in a child is pride in his or her race or races.
I am proud to be a child born to two loving, talented, creative people – a mother and father who happened to be of African-American and English descent, respectively. I do not feel confused at all nor do I have an identity crisis. I do not feel lost in society nor rejected by any race because I am all races in one.
I am the melting pot, and in our global society, soon all the children of the world will be a mixture of races as well. So why should we try to pick and choose what we want and don’t want our children to be? Why can’t we just accept our common humanity and try to refocus our energies on more pressing matters such as Hurricane Dolly in Texas, infected children in flooded Burmese streets, earthquake victims in China, AIDS patients in Sub-Saharan Africa or those here in Washington, D.C.?
As the world confronts these and other serious challenges to survival, why add more complications by trying to reduce a living symbol of racial harmony to a checked-box identity?