color of family letters to the editor

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The following letters were written in response to "The Color of Family" series on interracial marriage published March 6 to 9 in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

God does not have or see color

I am a biracial woman who can relate to a lot of the articles that were featured. My mother was white and my father was black, and growing up I thought nothing of color.

I went to a church school which had some black kids, but was mostly white and I never thought that I'd be made fun of or forced to answer and choose sides for who I was. In high school, I transferred to a public, predominantly black school. After that it was hard. If you talked "white," it's what black kids called "talking proper," or if your hair was different, black kids always think that you're better than they are. They wanted you to choose what side or color you wanted to be. Never did they understand that no matter how light you are to white people, you are still darker than they are.

When I started working my high school job doing fast food, I had some white people refusing to put money in my hand. That hurt a lot. God does not have or see color. Why do we? When I started dating, it was only black men, and my brothers only dated white women and still do. I never really gave white men a thought, even though in my family we dealt mostly with my white side.

I had always thought I would marry a black man. Surprise! My best friend, my lover, my husband is white. When I met my husband, I was not looking for anything. I had just ended a relationship with a black man, and was tired of all the lies and him not being faithful.

Another thing, why are we as black people always using slavery as an excuse? Half, if not more than half of us were not even thought of during that time. There were a lot of biracial babies created at that time. So why do we always have to bring that up to explain how black culture is? If anything, we should be getting from slavery how they were a proud and strong people. Even through those times. We need to stop blaming each other for everything and come together as a nation, regardless of color.

My husband and I have a 6-year-old son who is content with who he is. We don't talk about color and he attends Kalamazoo schools and plays hockey. My next-door neighbor always says "Man, he doesn't know what color he is" or "There are no black hockey players." I say, "Who cares"? He is 6 and likes hockey.

We are teaching him to love himself and respect others for who they are. He never brings up questions about color. Kids are not born prejudiced. It's learned. We should all be blind and then there would never be this issue of race.

I'm a proud multi-racial women who is content with who she is. I just hope my son has a better time growing up than I did. My childhood made me strong and honestly I would not change it. It's made me who I am. I want my son to be able to tell anyone that he is content with who he is!

Natalkka Richards

Kalamazoo

Let's pursue understanding

The Kalamazoo Gazette deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to bring to the attention of the community a sensitive subject like interracial marriage. Perception is what matters. Seeing two people of different races as a married couple is difficult for people of all races. Some would say that a person should marry someone of their own kind, someone that the community will accept. A white person turns their head if they see a black man and a white woman walking down the street.

Where does that response come from? Is it something that we were told, that black and white people shouldn't mix, that people of color are "different" from white people. People from both races are suspicious and wary of each other, they don't trust each other, and in the absence of trust, communication breaks down and fear takes over, pushing the two races farther and farther apart. It becomes a matter of "us against them," but one doesn't know who "them" is -- they've never met. Perhaps that's one of the problems.

What's different about black parents? They encourage their children to do well at school, to practice their religion, to give to others, to obey the law, to respect people and to respect themselves so that they will do the right thing.

It's time that we dispel the myths, the misperceptions, the distortions of the truth relative to people of color. Scapegoating, prejudice and bigotry are no strangers to people of color.

A color-blind community is a worthwhile goal, but who or what will help to bridge the gap that exists between the races? While attitudes are difficult to change, people of goodwill who are disturbed by the long-simmering situation, can come together to try to find new pathways to mutual understanding and thus salvage the future for the youngest among us. The interracial couples that have been featured in the Gazette's articles under the heading "Cultural taboos resist change" are prime examples of people of different races who beat the odds.

Murray C. Schwartz

Kalamazoo

Love brings us together

I am really glad to have read "The Color of Family" because I can relate to some of the stories. I am a 27-year-old Latin woman and my husband is a 28-year-old white man. We have a 3-month-old child together and I have three other children from another relationship, and they are biracial children: black, Jamaican and Latin.

Everywhere we go, we get everyone's attention, and I mean everyone. People will make all sorts of comments and they will even come up to us and ask us if they all belong to us. And, of course, our response is "Yes," but for people to even ask such silly questions. You see more biracial relationships now more than ever. People act like this is something new -- it's 2005, and to think people are still stuck on this color issue.

My husband and I love our children and each other no matter what color we are. And it saddens me that we are being judged by people who don't even know us. I hope that someday people will realize that it's love that brings us together, not color.

Mary Gibson

Kalamazoo

Shining a light on taboo issues

As an organization that works to be culturally competent in serving people from all walks of life with equal respect, it is especially heartening to read the Kalamazoo Gazette's commitment to shining the light on the taboo issues of society. The most recent example was the four days of in-depth journalism on bi- and multi-racial marriages.

Those of us old enough to remember, know well the time when a mixed marriage was between a Catholic and a Protestant or a Christian and a Jew. Like that "historic" issue which had its own family tragedies and the concomitant societal impacts, so too with racially mixed marriages and families.

It would indeed be heartening in this new century to have the institutions that perpetuated these prejudices and biases aimed at couples and the children of bi- and multi-racial families to speak out as the Gazette has done so responsibly so that our community can continue its progressive direction toward affirming a world of diversity where everyone, regardless of background, is welcomed and included.

The Rev. Mark Pawlowski

Kalamazoo

Teach young to love all people

Upon reading the series "The Color of Family," I couldn't help but think that it really should have been titled "The Love of Family." As I was reading through this series, I just couldn't help but wonder why it was even printed, or more so, where do some of these people's opinions come from?

I usually will read articles and just move on about my day, despite the fact that I had issues with the article. But with the opinionated letters responding to the series, I was really bothered. The one that bit me the worst was the one titled "Children pay price of parents' choices (published March 13)." When I read this letter that was written by a black woman, I just couldn't figure out how she came to the theory that biracial children suffer due to their parents' choice of being together. What experience could she possibly have had to come to a conclusion like this? I realize everyone forms their own opinions based on their own personal experiences, so I feel that it is my duty to express my opinion based on experiences, not self-projection.

My husband and I have been married for almost eight years. I am totally, happily in love with my husband, and he feels the same toward me. I am a 33-year-old white woman who is married to a 30-year-old black man, and we have five wonderful children together that represent the best of my husband and I. The opinion of people who assume that biracial children suffer are those of ones that usually don't have children, and more importantly, those of very unhappy souls.

Today, there are so many prejudices in our society that to single out one is wrong. What about the children who are fat, the children who are poor? They, too, experience some form of unacceptance through their childhood. People discriminate against people who are fat, people who are ugly, people who are poor, people who have red hair. Anywhere you look there is going to be some unhappy soul who has to point out other people's characteristics and criticize them.

Knowing this would allow any educated person to realize that it really makes NO difference what color you are, someone, somewhere, will find a problem with you regardless of the color of your skin. That's the way of the world. Therefore, it's not that our biracial children suffer, it's all children suffer through our society, and it's the tools that the parents give these children that will distinguish between the healthy and the insecure.

Our family lives in a primarily white town. There are some black families, more biracial families, but primarily white. We have not had ONE problem with anyone. This community has embraced us and been very accepting. My children have never been teased or made to feel left out. My husband has NEVER felt inferior in this town. He is educated enough to know that it is how you carry yourself and how you live your life that people will ultimately "judge" you by.

We instill these same values in our children. My children don't consider themselves black or white. They are human; they don't have to worry about separating the races or "choosing a side." We are fully accepted because we accept ourselves.

Getting acceptance from everyone in the world is impossible. You will always come across those that have to criticize because they're so unhappy within themselves. You just have to prepare your children that not everyone will like them. There are people who judge you for what you look like, but those are the people that you just pass up and move on. Is that the price that my children have to pay by being biracial? No, I don't think so -- that's the price ANY child has to pay, no matter what color they are.

My children do not suffer because they're biracial, being biracial is not an issue in my household. I must say, everywhere I go, I get nothing but compliments on how beautiful my children are. I have always received acceptance when encountering new people with my family. My children are very confident and comfortable in their skin, and I strongly oppose anyone who tries to tell the world how much they struggle.

My conclusion: Finding love is tough. If you find it in someone of another race, embrace it, announce it, get married and start a family. Our biracial children are the ones changing the world into a positive more accepting place. An example of the evolution of this positive change is watching an older person that has had their anti- interracial issues?now moving beyond it and embracing their biracial granddaughter with a hug.

Let's come together as a species and teach our young to love all people, no matter their color, weight, level of income -- then no one suffers. Maybe if we, as a whole society, focused on that, we wouldn't have some of the problems that we have today.

Kathy Tobar

Watervliet



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