Readers respond to 'The Color of Family'

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Interracial series touching, inspiring

We thank the Kalamazoo Gazette for the series of poignant, personal, and revealing stories about interracial married couples and biracial children. It was touching and inspiring to learn of their varied backgrounds, and the way they dealt with adversity. These articles have helped us understand the real-life experiences, both painful and rewarding, that these courageous people live.

We especially appreciate the story on Jim and Marianne Houston, who are personal friends.

Thanks to Linda Mah, William Wood, Dave Hager and others for this series. We hope the Gazette gets the honors it deserves.

Lois and Larry Snyder Portage

Categorizing feeds the race problem

I have thought a lot about the subject of interracial marriage for 30 to 35 years. As a child of the 1950s-60s growing up in Indiana, the first time I recall seeing a black/white couple together was in the mid-'60s as they walked, hand in hand, along a business district. (I had the same reaction the first time I saw two men, hand in hand, many years later.) Total shock!

Since that time, I have come to believe that the elimination of racial problems in our country may come about from couples doing just that. Look back 150 to 200 years. Did anyone want their daughter to marry an Irishman or an Asian? Over time, many nationalities have been singled out for discrimination in jobs, housing and, yes, marriages. If my dad had married a black woman in 1947, my grandfather might well have shot him. If I had done so in 1974, grandpa might have disowned me, but I think my dad would have accepted her and us as a couple. My dad was mostly German, mixed with who knows what, and my mom was Swedish/Scotch/whatever, but since skin tone was "Caucasian" who cared?

I believe it is harder for the children of a mixed black/white relationship even today because what lifestyle do they fit into? Black or white? Asian or European? Black or Asian? Most American blacks today are partially European. But, even if they were 75 percent Caucasian, what would they get classified as on a census form or any other form they might fill out? I detest that question on any form.

We, as Americans, feed the race problem every time we separate the "races" in any way. Think about it. We now have Black History Month. Why not Spanish History Month or Japanese or Croatian or Brazilian or Eskimoian ...? Where would it stop? Why not just American history?

We have, over the last 40 years (required by law in some cases), given job preference to people based on certain color and/or sex. When I applied for a post office position in 1986, my test score was 97 percent. Certain people were hired ahead of me -- based on what? If it were because they had served in the armed forces or were wounded veterans, OK. If it was because they were a certain race or sex, I have a problem with it. All of these factors feed the race issue and could even affect some people's thinking about mixed marriages.

In the last 15 years I have met several really nice "mixed" couples. Marriage is hard, and even harder for them. I applaud those who can keep a loving relationship like that long term. I think their background and what type of culture they were raised in has more to do with the marriage surviving than skin color. Many GIs returned from World War II, Korea and Vietnam with foreign wives. Some marriages made it, some didn't.

How about this: If you have a problem with a black marrying a white, then don't do it. It may not be for you. But why should you care if your neighbor does this? Bake some cookies and take them over and welcome them to the neighborhood. You might find that they are really nice folks and you might help solve one of the biggest problems facing our nation. Remember, none of us are perfect. We're all just trying to survive and feed our families, just like you.

Phil Miller


Growing up with race as bias point

When I was 9 during the early 1960s, my mother, a white woman, married a black man and, as a result, her father, a patriarchal old-fashioned man, disowned her. Because they could not live then as a biracial couple in Kalamazoo, my mother moved to Detroit and my brother and I went to live with my father and stepmother. All communications between my mother and grandparents stopped. Of course, there was no discussion, no compromise and no chance of understanding or acceptance. When my mother died of cancer five years later, my grandfather would not allow my mother to be buried in the family plot.

I was profoundly affected by this and have searched my entire adulthood for a way to make peace with this childhood experience. Growing up this way was a deep learning experience with race as a bias point. Instead of white, red, yellow or black, I have grown to see people of all colors as spiritual beings having a human experience.

I am pleased to see this dialogue made public and view it as both a call to action, and an opportunity to learn to make different choices in the future than were made in the past.

Donna Allgaier-Lamberti


These relationships are like any other

I am a white woman who is married to the most wonderful, loving man I have ever known and who just happens to be black. We have been together for nearly 10 years, married for more than three years.

I am married to the best friend I have ever had. He is a wonderful man who loves me and is there for me always ... who just happens to be a black man.

We have everything in common and spend nearly all of our free time together because we sincerely enjoy each other's company.

Although we have not had any real blatant situations because of our interracial relationship, we both have experienced situations where we feel we would have been treated differently if not for our relationship.

I have had several black female bosses who have treated me differently than other employees. At first, I didn't think it had to do with my relationship with a black man, but when it happens three times, it's hard to overlook.

My husband was reluctant to have the relationship because of his belief that he would be ostracized from his race. He feels this has happened to some extent, but is at peace with his decision to be with me.

I have been given the opportunity to embrace a culture that is rich in tradition and family. His family has been wonderful and welcoming to me.

My family, while slower to accept my husband, now see him as I do, and love him very much.

My interracial relationship is something that I only think about when we are out together in public. We get the glances and stares. It saddens me more than anything else. It's frustrating to be judged by people who don't even know you.

Our relationship has the same problems as any relationship, but we have made the same commitment as people do in any relationship. He was there for me during my recent brain surgery and gave me the best care a person could get. I was there for him when his youngest sibling died and did anything I could to comfort him. It's a relationship as normal as any other.

Konnie Hopson


Why does this topic need attention here?

We have lived in the Kalamazoo area less than two years and, so far, it is a very nice place to live and raise a family. We were surprised and disappointed to see that interracial families warrant a front-page article. In a way, it is nice that the headline is not about a murder or other violent acts. But this is the 21st century and, in many communities, this is a non-issue. Is this a major concern here? For an area that prides itself on its role in the underground railroad, I would like to think that its residents are more progressive in how they view everyone around them.

Anna Lladoc


Marriage more than just black, white

My wife and I have enjoyed the articles that you have had in the paper the past couple of days regarding "mixed marriages." The same theme it seems is expressed over and over -- why do we have to turn this into a black/white issue? Let's look at people for who they are, not the color of their skin. I have one concern, however, and that is you, the Kalamazoo Gazette, have helped turn this into a black/white issue. What about other racial mixed marriages?

I have only seen articles about marriages between blacks and whites. What about Asian/white, Hispanic/black, Hispanic/white, Asian/black, etc. You have an Asian woman and a black man on your staff who are married -- two writers that my wife and I enjoy reading a great deal. They have talked about problems they have encountered. Their thoughts also would have been an interesting read.

My wife is Asian and I am white. We have been married for 27 years and have three daughters. I am sure that we have not encountered the problems from society that many of your couples in the articles have run into. We have had our own "run-ins" with society's bigots, not just from white bigots.

Bigotry comes in all colors, and it is not just exclusive to black or white.

Keep up the good work and the good articles -- but also keep in mind that it is not just a black/white issue.

Rick Buckles


Racism experience shapes marital views

I am glad I read "The Color of Family," because I used to feel the same way about marriage, and probably still do. I am very active in the church, but, at the same time, I felt that if I brought a white female as my wife to church (especially when I was living in New York), I would be chastised. I didn't feel this way when I was little, because I was going to a school with only four black students, including the mayor of Kalamazoo's kids, so all I dated was white girls for a while until I went back to New York. Plus, my mother was against me and my siblings marrying a white person, partly because she had experience with racism herself.

I know God has a special mate for everybody in life, whether they are black or white. I just have to believe like this couple did and I know God has big things for them in the future.

Ruphos Brown Jr.


Marriage is a personal matter

Not long from now, people will look back at these articles and wonder why it was even an issue to write about. I wonder why today. This is old news. Oh, and by the way, a marriage is between two people who love each other, and it's nobody else's business.

Joe Mapes


Children pay price of parents' choices

First, I would like to say that it is very good to see people in love, regardless of their race. With so much unhappiness going on in the world, having someone you love, and who loves you back, can ease the everyday tension in your life. I am a black woman in my early 30s and it is very interesting these days to see black men with white women because I do question if that love is authentic.

For older couples I do believe that it is -- and especially if they have been dating for 25 years or more because they have actually put their love to the test in more ways than one. They have been disowned by family members. They have had other people, as well as their own family members, make nasty remarks. They have had threats as well, and I'm sure that some of those threats were acted upon.

I have dated two biracial young men in my lifetime and it is very interesting how they felt the same way about a few things. One told me that he tried dating a white woman and, when he went to her father's house for dinner, he felt really uncomfortable. Although the father did shake his hand, he still felt as though her father judged him before he got a chance to know him and still looked at him as a black man dating his white daughter. He didn't feel as though he had to put up with that.

The other told me that, just because you are in love with someone else who is not of the same race and you have children out of love, you should be careful and think about what you are doing because that child is the product of what two other people felt was right at the time. But that child will be the one who has to deal with our society.

I read where one couple said that the children have two parents who love them -- which is more than some kids have -- and that is true. But it is when you are not around them most of the time where it all takes place. To love your child is a parent's job, no doubt about that. But you will always have to go above and beyond that because they are not only going to have issues with kids, who are the roughest critics around, they are going to have issues with adults who are not mature enough to be adults.

You will have to make sure that you have enough backbone for your whole family, especially the mother. Because we are the ones who will have to soothe the child's soul, we are the ones who nurture them to go on, unless it is a single male household. So you have to be ready to deal with the looks, and smart remarks, and under-the-breath comments.

I think that it is sad when a biracial young man or woman has to put down "other" or "black" as a race when applying for something. They should be able to only mark "white" if they felt like it -- that is part of their race as well. But they have to choose, and they mark "black" because they know that they are most identified with as being black. I feel really bad as a black race, because we have our own issues to deal with. And I bet the threats that interracial couples have to deal with were not only from the white race. There are a lot of black families who do not believe in interracial dating. But the black race needs healing as well.

I am a dark-skinned black woman, and I have had to deal with racial issues within my own race. I think the hatred of interracial dating comes from our history. We thought that "light to white" was right. The darker you are, the more unattractive you are. I have had comments made to me that, if I were lighter, I would be prettier, or comments like, "For you to be so dark, you're pretty." Those are the dumbest comments that I have ever heard in my life, so I can only imagine the comments biracial kids have to deal with. I went home crying to my mother because of those remarks over the years. And my mother never let her own family members tease me about my skin tone because she knew how it bothered me. I even talked to my mother about bleaching my skin.

It took me until my late 20s to realize that I love my dark tone. It came from unconditional love. My mother had to tell me over and over again that I am unique and beautiful, and don't let anyone tell me differently. And this is my own race teasing me.

Unfortunately, most of the world is not ready for interracial dating. And if we have not honestly started to mature as a nation, and start within our own backyards to do the healing, then we will always be where we are.

The reality of it is, some people just don't want to have races mixing, and you will have to respect that as well, like they will have to respect the fact that the world is evolving, and no one has control over who you love.

Charlene S. Blanks


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