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Fading (an essay by 'Jill Williams')

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Dr. Jil Williams wrote the following essay regarding the impact of both living in a race-conscious society and also of having and being from a Mixed-Race
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2007

      Dr. Jil Williams wrote the following  essay regarding the
      impact of both living in a race-conscious society and
      also of having and being from a Mixed-Race family
      which is also categorized as 'light-skinned "

      This essay is based on
      a radio interview with Dick Gordon
      of 'The Story' (National Public Radio)
       who talked with
      Jil Williams on April 13, 2007 about her experiences
      as being a woman  who is both Multi-Generational
      Multiracially-Mixed and also "
      black" [categorized].


                   (An Essay by Dr. Jil Williams)

      "I grew up on the south side of Chicago
      in the late fifties, sixties, and early seventies
      There were no drugs, gangs, or poverty in my
      . My father was a doctor and my
      mother was a housewife
      We lived on a quiet
      tree lined street of brick bungalows
      . I attended a
      Catholic grade school and an all girls' high school

      I was sheltered, but sheltered from what? 

      You see, I was "
      black" [categorized] and all that
      I saw with the exception of nuns, priest, and grocery
      store owners were people "

      Chemist, teachers, lawyers, doctors, butchers, policemen,
      the list goes on, were the fabric of our neighborhood

      Perhaps I should qualify that by saying that
      black"-like-me meant, frequently, a
      person of Mixed-Race appearance.

      We were the last vestiges of Mixed-Raced
      descendents of White [enslavers]

      Of course, I was not aware of this at the time

      … but
      we were certainly not an anomaly.

      Jil Williams 
      (Dr. Jil Williams in the 1980's)

      I grew up thinking that all black people were middle
      class, Catholic, and
      not "unusually" Mixed-looking.

      When I went away to college, I naturally gravitated to other
      . Some occasionally teased me about my color
      and social class, but I never felt completely alienated by other blacks
      White people were foreign to me
      . It was not so much their color,
      because many of my friends and family looked as white as them,
      but the sense of distance and aloofness
      . I was twelve before
      I realized that both of my next-door neighbors were "
      [categorized].  I thought they were White because they acted
      much like the only Whites I had ever encountered. They
      were decidedly cool, and distant to my siblings and me

      I did not judge race by the color of your skin,
      rather, by a person's attitude or affect

      Like most upwardly mobile "
      blacks" in the seventies and
      eighties, I went to graduate school, married, and decided
      to pursue the American dream of a home in the suburbs

      Jasper Williams 
       (Jil Williams husband, Jasper, from the 1980's)

      I momentarily hesitated choosing a nearly lily White suburb,

      but I thought the schools, and community amenities off set the
      issue of being one of the few "
      blacks" in the neighborhood.

      Gradually I became aware of how
      much a fish out of water I had become

      While visiting a nearby park, another young mother asked what
      kind of doctor I was, when I had never mentioned I was a doctor
      Word had spread that there was a "
      black" doctor
      family who moved into the neighborhood

      My children were invited to other children's birthday
      parties, but when I arrived to get them, mouths would drop

      They did not realize that my kids were "
      black" until they saw me.

       Jordan and Jillian
       (Jill & Jasper's son, Jordan & daughter, Jillian

      Gradually, they were no longer invited over to some
      children's homes for play dates or birthday parties

      I began inviting my 2nd and 3rd cousins kids
      over for weeks at a time during the summer so my
      children would see and interact with other children of color

      It helped but was not enough

      We joined 'Jack and Jill,' a historically "
      black" social club for
      children and returned on Sundays to the south side of Chicago
      for Sunday worship, but it never seemed to be enough

      I tried hard to instill a sense of pride of being "
      but with so few playmates who were "
      black" my
      children didn't really understand my message

      I remember a sorrowful day when by daughter was watching
      a movie about Huck Finn
      .  As she watched a scene where
      a White overseer was beating some black slaves in a field,
      my daughter broke down and cried
      .  She said she no longer
      wanted to be
      black" because "black" people got beat.

      The pain I felt, as a "
      black" mother was indescribable.

      What made it worse was the fact that if my daughter wanted
      to, she could one day decide to be "
      black" or White.

      If she or possibly her future children chose
      White, then I would fade into a closet

      How do you instill pride with so many negative messages? 

      Once, while my daughter was on a school bus one of her
      classmates pointed out some 'bad' words written on a seat
      The child told my daughter, "I bet black kids wrote that.
      When my daughter questioned her logic, the child
      explained, "Because black people are bad.

      I removed my children from the suburban schools,
      moved back into the city and put them in more
      progressive private schools
      There were a few
      more students-of-color at these schools, but
      it was still predominantly upper class White

      My daughter started to experience another
      kind of prejudice, black-on-"
      black" haters.

      She had long, straight blond hair whereas
      the other black girls had short hair

      Jillian Williams 
      (Jill & Jasper Williams' daughter, Jillian)

      One in particular, lashed out at her and told
      my daughter that the only reason she had
      "white girl's hair" was because her
      grand-mother (I think she meant
      ancestor's) were raped by White men

      My little girl came home hurt and confused
      because she didn't know what it meant,
      but knew it sounded shameful or bad

      She became the brunt of pranks,
      teasing by the other girls-of-color

      She began to experience a phenomena
      that I was not aware existed, at least
      not while I was growing up

      I call it "you're not 'my' black.

      Both my children were not openly or readily
      accepted as being black by other black children
      They not only didn't "talk black," they also didn't
      "look black." At the "black table" in the dining halls
      at school if they would sit down at them, they
      would get the "what are you doing here?" look

      In my neighborhood growing up, my friends were
      all ranges of color, many as light as my children
      Everyone was accepted ...

      It seems today, with the advent of de-segregation, the
      `concentration` of
      Mixed-Race "black" [categorized]
      -- who aren't the product of one White parent
      and one obviously black-looking parent,
      is now
      [falsely being seen as some sort of] an anomaly

      Jordan Williams
      (Jill & Jasper Williams' son, Jordan)

      It's easier to assume we're Hispanic or Middle Eastern

      Although White students seem to accept my kids as being
      "Mixed" … they are more curious and persistent
      in wanting to know "how" they are Mixed

      But even then, often they "forget" that my
      children are "
      black" [categorized], and
      again, sometimes with painful consequences

      America has created us, but now
      no one knows what to do with us …

      Whether I 'fade' through my children marrying White
      people, or 'fade' by the gradual perception that 'Mixed'
      is no longer accepted as black, the result is the same ...


      A printable version of Jil Williams' complete essay can
      be found at  
      In addition, listed below are links to a podcast of her radio interview:
      Listen -----  Listen in your iPhone ----- Download  ----- View full cache





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