In 2006, I tried writing a script for the first time and the following is what I came up with:
An original script
by Dangerous Lee
July 2006 Draft
1. BLACK SCREEN: Sound of baby crying.
2. INT: Hospital Delivery Room
A beautiful black baby is born and crying. The doctor and nurses are all in shock. We then see the mother and father who are white.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
The child is then turned towards the mother and father. The father looks at his wife accusingly and begins to walk away. The mother looks at child and screams.
3. Int. Hospital Room in same hospital.
Black woman has given birth to a white child and she and her husband are trying to calmly discuss the situation.
“It may be albino!”
“Albino babies do not have brown hair.”
“Baby, I did not cheat on you, so there is no need for a DNA test but if that is what you want then go ahead and pull a Maury Povich on me!”
“I am most definitely getting a DNA test! I really don’t need one! Two black people cannot create a white baby!”
The mother starts to cry. At the same time a nurse brings in the baby for a feeding.
4. Int. Zoom to television in room
Special News Report
“All across the country there are reports of families giving birth to children who do not share the same skin color, but after having numerous DNA tests it shows that these children do indeed belong to them…”
I wrote this before I knew anything about Sandra Laing, a woman who comes from at least three generations of White ancestors but appears Black (of African descent). She is an example of atavism. Her family was unaware of their African roots.
I have never seen it, but a movie about her life, also titled Skin, was released in 2008.
I find her true life story along with my fictional tale to be quite amazing. At the time I wrote it I had no idea that this could and had really happened. Nothing ever came of this script but a three-part essay series I wrote and published in 2010 called The Half Series – When Black People Look White also tackles the subject and my experiences with skin color and race.
“Look at Me, Damn it,” delves deeper into the complexities of race and racial codes in America, examining everything from the experiences of biracial people who are adopted into mono-racial homes, and the lack of drug testing for mixed-race folks in the medical community, passing, entitlements, to the mixed story-line that does not have a first generation African American, European, Asian or Latino parent and mixes that are not just black and white. Battle-Cochrane’s aspirations for the project, which recently launched a fundraising effort on the website indiegogo include debuting at the Sundance Film Festival and sharing her message of self-love and racial healing.
It wasn’t an easy existence being biracial in a black neighborhood in New York in the 60’s and early 70’s. Racially our country was going through changes, it was smack dab in the mist of the civil rights movement. I lived in a black neighborhood in Queens, and the Black Panthers marched down our block often–one time a black girlfriend of my moms came unglued when they came marching and chanting that she screamed, “Carolyn get in the closet“. Mom didn’t budge…she peeked out the window and watched as they passed our home. What that meant for my brothers and I is that we had to run fast or be ready for a fight.
My older brother Jacques and I were always together so we were either dodging rocks, snowballs or hearing “ain’t your momma pretty, she got meatballs in her titties and scrambled eggs between her legs, ain’t your momma pretty…(I still remember that to this day)”, and your Momma is a “white ho” would quickly be tagged on. My dad, a rather hard man, made it clear he was not raising any sissies, we better put rocks in our snowballs and throw twice as many until we drew blood! If we lost the fight Mr. Battle was gonna whup us, so take your pick…fight kids or get beat by a man lathered in several shots of Old Crow yielding a belt. Jacques and I never lost a fight. The only time we got beat up is if we were alone or got jumped by several kids. After you make it clear you’re not going to run, you’re not going to cry, you’re going to fight to win, you gain a reputation and then for whatever reason you become friends. Unfortunately we moved often, which meant the process was repeated never giving us time to create lasting friendships in our neighborhood. Mom did have us in church every Saturday, our lasting friendships were made there. Saturday church and the Sabbath (and not a Synagogue) was an oddity much like our racial identity.
Behind closed doors, life showcased elements that were essential to making me who I am today. The waltz and Lawrence Welk were Mom’s favorite–so she danced with my brothers often and taught me how to be a proper young lady. How to set a table correctly. One of the first books I remember reading was a book on etiquette. The contrast being the blues and R&B, scatted by my father in his bombastic tone, weaved and intertwined into the core of all I love. Classical music makes my heart swell, and I love the blues…I sing them regularly.
I want to say I never felt tragic during this period of my life. I concluded as a child that my personal family was dysfunctional, and that daddy didn’t really like white people, and that Mom wasn’t light skin. My life was my life, so that was my normal…we were always moving fast so there was nothing to compare it to.
I hid my biracial identity most of my childhood. Most of my life actually. I was ashamed of having a white mother (as a child). I cry every time I have to speak on this or am reminded of this. I denied she was my mother in school. I was in a classroom filled with black kids, it wasn’t cool having a white mother and more than likely it meant I was going to have to fight someone, or several someone’s. As an adult it was just easier to represent myself as a light skin black than deal with the possibility that someone might see me as the enemy in some way. I owned a hair salon that catered to black clientele, and the things I’ve heard about white people, umph…to this day are “interesting” to say the least. I just have to say on the record, my Mom never smelled like a wet dog…she smelled like baked cookies and roses.
What I don’t want to do is speak for all biracial people, so I am going to speak to why I think biracial identity is important (to me) and why I won’t choose one side any longer.
First and foremost my awakening came with memories of denying my mother, an amazing woman that gave love and positivity regardless of where we found ourselves. I asked my Mom once why she didn’t just walk back into the white world and leave us, and be okay. The life she endured because she was our mother at that time in American history was so harsh, and the toll racism had on my father, her husband came into the home and landed on her. As a woman, as a mother, I fell apart and realized how much she had endured, it was unbearable to digest. In that moment I was proud for the first time in my life of who I was, who I was because of her. I was sick to my stomach of my actions as a child and realized I wasn’t much different as an adult if I didn’t take pride in her as my mother. Respect and love for my mother is the real reason for me to identify as biracial.
How can I choose a side other than to give the illusion of choosing when I am equal parts of an experience. In theory I can, but the voices that play out in your head when you do, would suggest you never really choose a side if you’re biracial even if your appear to be doing so. Let me explain, to choose a side means that you are also denying a side. When doing that you are denying a part of yourself, which means at some point that choice is going to be painful. Being biracial gives you this incredible ability to see people as people, with all of their wrappings. It gives you clarity on right and wrong, good and bad, equality and inequality and doesn’t usually come with the stereotypes attached for most mono-racial folks. We live in that space of both, but not really…we live in observation of both, which gives us the ultimate reality check. Ya’ll ain’t that different at all. It might come down to you want mayo and he wants hot sauce. But at the end of the day, we are more alike than different. Cultural differences are learned/taught…so when you remove those, what are the real differences besides the shade of your skin. Personally I am still trying to figure that out.
As I get close to the end of my series on being biracial, mixed-race, multi-ethnic, I am finding I am still singing the jingle in my head, “Just different shades of the same human race.” That’s my signature tune, BUT, we don’t live in that world just yet. In the past several years race, and the topic of race have become more profound and disconnected than I can recall since being a child. It’s Obama’s fault. (SMH)
There is another reason I think that identifying as biracial holds importance. Over the course of my life I have had several close friends that have had two black parents, they are striking women, the most gorgeous chocolate skin, and the sweetest spirits. Cassandra almost sounds like Marilyn Monroe when she speaks. Over the course of many decades I have witnessed something that has been heart breaking. I was always described as the pretty one when I have been with them…and it was a damn lie! Cassandra has always been the beauty, still is. Somehow the standard of beauty in this country often comes with the shade of your skin, and not necessarily anything to do with what you really look like. That was the back-bone of discomfort for me when it comes to who is pretty.
Fast forward, CNN did the baby doll test, where black girls found the white (light doll) as the pretty doll. Pull my heart out, my daughter married a toasty brown man, which means my grand-daughters are not “light-skinned” and the day came when my grand-daughter told me she wished her skin was lighter like her Umi’s or mine because that would mean she would be pretty. Nooooooooooooo, that is not true baby-girl It is not true!!!
Then, I saw the interview where CNN sent Soledad O’Brien to interview the family of this beautiful little brown baby girl about her feelings. That night I realized we have so much work to do…at a time where this child’s self esteem could have, should have been elevated it wasn’t. The celebrity host, which showed up looked more white to a child’s eye, than black like her. When major black magazines tout Halle Berry as the most beautiful Black woman in THE WORLD…there is a problem with this, to me. Halle and Soledad have a white parent, which creates some one that is different from someone that doesn’t have a white parent. We cannot define that as black, and then say that is the standard for beauty in the back community. It makes it an unobtainable standard to children, little girls that do not have a white parent. I will not play by those rules.
And, one final point…in the black community the standard of beauty has been the lighter the better (paper bag test, Jack & Jill club), even tho…the darker the berry the sweeter the juice is the other slogan. Knowing this as biracial people, why not just remove ourselves from a box we don’t belong in, of course we are people of color, of course we share in the black experience. However, we also have had experiences that blacks without a white parent will probably never understand, the entitlements are real, the ability to feel pretty damn comfortable within the white community is real…we can’t walk in each others shoes. They don’t fit.
First, thank goodness it ain’t 1963…
Basic advice, make sure she is proud of all that she is, knows who she is, her background and her heritage. Make sure she is grounded in that. Don’t let her buy into the pretty light girl crap, pretty girl, okay! People are people, it’s that basic. Is her father in her life…if yes, great. If not, still knowing that side of who she is, is extremely important (in many interviews with biracial girls raised by their black mothers, they needed to have a connection to their white family to feel whole.)
I really enjoyed it…the one place we might slightly differ in thought process is, the definition of race. When we bring in institutionalized definitions of what race is, the reality or the myth that doesn’t really make a difference in the day to day, walking in the skin we’re in. It’s how we’re perceived and how that impacts our lives personally and what we need to do to survive those perceptions. Of course race is not real, it’s created, and defined (by perception)…but when you live in a world where you are denied housing because of your skin shade it is real, when you are denied advancement because of your skin shade it is real, when you can get you shot for walking down the street with a hoodie and Skittles…it has to be dealt with. We cannot pretend race is fictional when it has life and death consequences attached. The perception of who we are is as real as the other person’s choice to pick up or put down that weapon based on what we look like and how that translates to their issues of fear, hatred and bigotry based on the illusion of race.
I love what you are doing, getting folks talking offers another perspective, another story…and there is never one story on any topic…so keep at it!!
Katie Burrell with her son:
Most of you are guessing that Katie’s ethnic background is Black and White. Keep on guessing. The truth will be revealed in the third and final installment of this series along with an exclusive interview with Katie.
As I stated in the beginning, I am the mother of a “biracial” or “mixed” child. I use quotation marks for these words because I do not think they are appropriate or correct, but because these are the words used to describe my child and others like her, I will go with the flow so that you can understand where I am coming from. I think bi or multi-ethnic would be more appropriate.
Why don’t I believe in these terms? Race is a made up social construct. We are all once race. We have different ethnic backgrounds but “race” is not real. We are all mixed in one way or another. The whole White and Black thing was made up for oppressive purposes that are still alive and well today. If it wasn’t I would not be writing this blog. We’re all 99.9% alike in every way.
Let’s move on to Michael Jackson‘s babies; I believe they are his biological children. Why? Because he admitted in an interview to using his sperm for their creation. I can also see Michael in their features and mannerisms. You can see a lot of Debbie Rowe in the two oldest children as well, but aren’t children supposed to look like their mama too?
And uh, people act like Michel was dark as hell before vitiligo took over his skin, not that that would make much difference in what his children would look like. You must also realize that the Jackson clan have mixed ancestry just like every other Black family in the United States. Genes do what the hell they want when they collide. We don’t control them. They control us! Two dark skinned people can produce a light skinned child.
I know many of you think that Michael had an issue being Black and that he bleached his skin and other such nonsense, so in turn he wanted White children, but you need to let that theory go. Michael suffered from a skin disorder called, vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin.
Vitiligo is hereditary and it has been assumed that Prince also has vitiligo because he has patches of white skin near his underarm.
Apparently the youngest, known as Blanket, is Black and Spanish/Italian. From what I understand, Michael used an anonymous surrogate for him and many people seem to only believe that Blanket is his biological child. Why only Blanket? Because he looks more ethnic?
If Blanket is indeed Black and Spanish/Italian he is naturally going to look more ethnic than his older brother and sister because they are half Black, half Debbie Rowe (Debbie is a White woman, but I don’t know her ethnicity). Duh!
Having a very light skin tone does not make a person any less Black than someone who is black as tar. Being Black is not literally about having dark skin, it’s about your heritage and about what you identify as. Really it’s about the ethnic background of your parents.
I was watching an old episode of America’s Next Top Model from back in 2005 when Detroit native, Naima won. Naima is Black, Mexican, and Irish. Another cast mate, Keenyah, a Black woman (background unknown), stated that she didn’t think Naima was Black because she doesn’t see that in her!
Who the hell is she to define what Black is for someone else and what the hell is she looking for that will make her say , “Ah ha, she is Black!” ? Being a brown skinned Black person does not mean you can define Blackness for someone else with lighter skin, and being dark also does not mean you can’t be of mixed heritage.
You can be as chocolate as I am and not be of African descent and you can be as light as Michael’s children and have a Black parent. Why is this so hard to understand or accept?
Back in my modeling days I constantly heard, “You’re so pretty, are you mixed?” Of course I took offense to this because the implication is that if you’re a pretty Black woman that you MUST be mixed with something else. You can’t just be Black. Give me a damn break!
I recently attended an Undoing Racism Workshop and let me tell you I was blown away by what I learned. Everyone needs to take part in this workshop if it hits your area. I promise, you will be enlightened and a lot less ignorant about race and color issues.
Black people will need to be open to the truth about terms such as, Colorism and Internalized Racism and White people will have to face the fact that they have what is called, Internalized Racial Superiority. I can’t find anything concrete online to directly explain this term, but the truth is out there. Read. There are tons of books that get into these topics.
In the final installment of The Half Series, I will reveal Katie Burrell’s ethnic background and I’m sure you will be shocked. I was!
In the meantime, stop trippin’ about color and love one another.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 7 seconds. Contains 1024 words
Take a look at my friend, Katie Burrell:
Is Katie Black? Is Katie White? Is she both?
Katie’s ethnic background will be revealed at a later date, but carefully look at her face, study her features and skin tone because she is my poster child for this series. More pictures of Katie will be shown later.
Over the past eight years the above quotes have all been said to or asked of me because of my daughter. I am a Black woman and I have a child by a White man. Those words once bothered me when my daughter was a baby, but I am used to it now and I respond accordingly with a healthy amount of venom in my tone.
When I found out I was carrying a baby by a White man I wasn’t happy. There is a long story behind this that will be shared with you in my memoirs one day, but one of the reasons is the fact that I knew I was going to have to deal with all these insulting questions and statements. And, the staring…oh gawd, people could win staring contests when they see a dark skinned Black woman with a child that appears White or is more than a few shades lighter.
I also worried that I would not know how to or be able to deal with raising a biracial child. It may seem ridiculous to you, but I really thought about what type of things I would have to teach her about her background and how to deal with people liking or disliking her because of things like her skin tone or her hair texture. I also worried that she would be different than me and that she would catch hell because of it.
I was right and I was wrong. I’m her mother. She has my DNA. I am raising her and I deal with any issues that may occur quite well. If she had come out half of whatever the hell Yoda is from Star Wars I would still love her lil’ brownish-green ass to death.
Ethnicity and color are not issues for me. They never have been. I love everyone and I dislike everyone. My feelings are equal opportunity. I won’t love you just because you’re Black and I won’t hate you just because you’re White. Like someone once said – “Just because you’re my color, it doesn’t mean you’re my kind.” Truer words have never been spoken.
For some odd and stupid ass reason many of us continue to be color struck. I really think most of us are ignorant or at the very least forgetful. Black people who look White is not a new phenomenon. Back in the day Black folks who appeared more White than Black “passed” all the time. Hell, some people are still passing today. There are some people that could pass but don’t like actress, Jennifer Beals, and my man, actor, Wentworth Miller.
Look at him:
Would you have guessed that Wentworth Miller has a parent with Black heritage? Well, he does! Wikipedia says: his father is of African-American, Jamaican, English, German, Jewish, and Cherokee background, and his mother is of Russian, French, Dutch, Lebanese, and Syrian ancestry. I first laid eyes on Wentworth in the film . The film is about a man who passes for Jewish, but is really Black. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s a good flick! plays Wentworth’s role as an older man. We all know Anthony Hopkins is not Black in any way, shape, or form (that we know of), but I’m sure he was cast in the role to make a valid point, not all Black people appear “Black”.
Anyway, back to Wentworth; I fell in love as soon as I saw him on the screen. He is a beautiful man. I saw The Human Stain around the same time Prison Break started on the FOX network, so I became a groupie and began watching it every week thereafter. Wentworth has also appeared in two Mariah Carey videos, It’s Like That and We Belong Together.
Some of you who know me are laughing and probably saying,”Yea, she likes ‘em light, bright, and damn near White.” True, I do tend to go gaga more for light skinned men or mixed dudes. I guess I like the best of both worlds. Sue me! When Black and White come together it creates something beautiful. That’s not to say that when anyone else comes together that it’s ugly, so don’t go there, but I like what I like! There are no self hating reasons for it and I love chocolate brothas too. I like men! Period.
I can’t find one to make my boyfriend, but that’s another story.
Again, back to Wentworth, I was sprung after seeing him in The Human Stain, but when I read an interview where he explained that he only portrays a White man for TV, I fell in love. Why? Because he had the nerve, courage and pride to reveal who he is despite the fact that he does not typically fit what most people perceive as a person of color.
These are just a few of the ridiculous things I have heard aimed at Michael and his children. These comments upset me and I take them personally because as you have already read, I get some of the same ignorant reactions because of my daughter.
In the next part of the series I will get deeper into Michael’s children and the issues many people have when Black and White DNA come together to create a child that appears only White.
In the meantime, let’s get back to Katie. Answer this poll:
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