An Interview with 'Laura Parker Castoro' (Part 2)
The following is Part 2 of the Generation-Mixed
interview with author, Laura Parker Castoro.
As a person who is of an MGM-Mixed ancestral lineage, have you ever
either been mistaken for or felt any pressured to "pass" yourself off
as being a person of FGM-Mixed lineage (i.e. allow others to assume
that your parents were actually 'partners in an interracial-marriage'
rather than actually being `people who were of a Mixed-Race lineage')?
I've been mistaken for white by blacks
and whites ever since I left home for college.
As a child I'm a product of the segregated south.
My parents were very active in the Civil Rights movement.
I knew who I was, went to segregated
schools, and so I was never interested in
`passing.' It was only after I left home
that I realized just how `white' I looked.
Have others thought I was passing? Maybe.
But that was their assumption.
All my friends and even most acquaintances
who know me as a writer have heard my story
so my background now often precedes me.
Now that biracial couples and families have become more
common, and people of mixed-ancestry are talking about those
blends, people will ask me which of my parents was white.
They often don't know what to make of
my answer that both were black. LOL
Can you share with us a little about these
experiences; your reaction to them; and any advice
that you would have for anyone else `in your shoes'?
I don't feel the need to make sure everyone
knows who I am every time I enter a room.
Other times something comes up in casual
conversation or something is said that allows me
to let someone know who they are speaking to.
However, it can be even more effective to counter a
prejudice without anyone thinking, oh well, she's black.
Of course she would think that.
My favorite piece of advice about dealing with, really,
any unpleasant situation came from my grandmother
who liked to say, "Consider the source."
That means when something happens or
is said that you don't like, stop and think:
Is the person or situation important
enough that I have to deal with it?
Will it really change a fool's mind, or
just make things awkward or worse?
What's the purpose in that?
As long as no one is standing in my
path, I can mind my own business.
I'm not everybody's mother or teacher.
My grandmother compared the crazy things
some people say and do in public to dog poop.
If it's on the street it's not harming you she
said to pass on by the poop and feel no obligation
to clean it up or deal with the offender.
In other words, I didn't have to get involved
with every situation that came along.
That makes for your own craziness.
She did say, now, if someone dumps dog poop on
your doorstep, you might need to deal with that.
It's been great life advice on so many levels.
And it always makes me smile to think of a problem like
prejudice as someone's else's pooper-scooper problem.
Do you feel that the Mixed-Race people who are of MGM-Mixed lineage
(i.e. born to one or two parents who are of either a known or an observed
multi-racial -- rather than of a mono-racial -- ancestry) feel any pressure
to downplay or to otherwise make very little note of their full-ancestry?
My husband and I reared our three biracial children
to love and respect all aspects of their lineage.
We told them it's human nature to want to belong.
Many people are uncomfortable with complexity.
They want to be one thing. Simple.
No more decisions required.
But nothing is that simple.
The more we accept about ourselves and the
complexity of the world the better off we are.
I don't have to be like you for you and me to both be okay.
It takes the pressure off.
What I've found, and my grown children say they have found out the
same thing, is that once I begin talking about myself, whoever I'm
talking to is eager to share their own complex family relationships.
If you downplay your heritage, or part of it,
you cut yourself off from a lot of experiences.
And that breeds shame.
No one should be ashamed of what
they are because they were born.
That's only the starting point in any life.
Can you expand on some of the thoughts, observations,
or any or theories that you may have concerning this matter?
Categories based on skin color and hair texture are artificial.
These things can range widely within families, with sibs.
So then, how can one brother be `black' while the other is labeled
`white' when they come from exactly the same gene pool?
They are genetically the same:
half of their mother and half of their father.
The genes just expressed themselves differently.
Most of this nonsense is about belonging or not.
Only the person him-herself can decide what they
value, or what to include in their definition of self.
Who cares what anyone else thinks, especially
someone expressing an opinion counter to your own?
As my parents would say,
What have they done for you?
Did they rear you, feed you, help you in your life in any way?
If not, they have no right to suggest an
opinion that should matter to you."
It feels so good to stand up for yourself,
in a positive and polite way.
There are other people in the world who agree with you.
Be with them.
Have you ever felt obligated or pressured "to `prove' your
loyalty" toward and / or prove (or even "justify") the pride
that you have for your African-American (AA) Ethnic
heritage and / or for any given part of your racial-lineage?
I've been challenged to when I was much younger.
But that's a kindergarten trap, trying
to prove something to someone else.
You can't `prove' you like someone, or love someone.
Either they believe or they don't. That's on them.
If you try to prove something to someone you will
forever being asked to prove it, over and over.
That's not faith, that's not friendship, that's
about exercising power or control over you.
And that's not good.
Thank goodness today young people have so many role
models out there that taking sides is less of an issue.
Today with everyone from The Rock to Prince to Alicia Keyes to the
President ( I know you can reel off dozens more) there are so many
reference points for multi-ethnic persons for the public to see
succeeding on their own terms that it's not the issue it once was.
People talk more openly and freely and that's very good.
THE UNIQUE RACIAL LINEAGE FOUND
AMONG MANY OF THE MEMBERS OF
Dr. Luigi Cavelli-Sforza (the director of the Human Genome
Project and the world's foremost authority on human genetics)
has published many very well respected works which have
made note of the fact that `more than seventy percent (+70%)
of the people who are born to two (2) parents who are BOTH
of the African-American (AA) Ethnic grouping are also of an
MGM-Mixed lineage' and -- the research as well as the PBS
documentaries `African-American Lives', hosted by Dr. Henry
Louis Gates (of Harvard University ) seems to have very
strongly backed-up and supported this claim found
in the published research of Dr. Luigi Cavelli-Sforza.
Many people (most of whom are not of the AA Ethnic
) however, still tend to find it to be rather
surprising to discover that there is such a large
number of people within this particular Ethnic
group who have a racially-admixed lineage.
Based on your knowledge and observation of the AA
--- are you surprised by any of the
results of the research by Dr. Cavelli-Sforza, by
Dr. Gates and by many otherswhy or why not?
Not surprised at all.
Black people have a long long history in America .
Some were here before slavery.
There were sea captains from the Canary
Islands off Africa and other sailors from
many nations to docked on our shores.
We came as whalers and all kinds of workers,
trappers and so forth, not just slaves.
Many slaves escaped and went north and west.
After more than four hundred years of being in
America, I'm certain we are part of every kind of
ethnic group who was here, and came after us.
It wasn't only master/slave relationships
that made for interracial alliances.
Left alone, people do what comes naturally. LOL
My family has a long oral history, and we've done some
genealogy recently, to prove its many-branched lineage.
We are African-American, French, Spanish,
Irish, English, and Native American.
Most of these ethnic blends repeat through
all four of my grandparents lines.
Who else? We aren't sure, yet.
Many black people I've talked to about this know
their families have more than African ancestry.
If you live in the south, we tend to know more.
Now my children can add
Italian and Sicilian to that lineage.
Can you provide us with any advice that you would have for
people who are of a Mixed-Race lineage (particularly those
who are of an MGM-Mixed lineage and / or also share in your
African-American (AA) ethnic heritage as well) and want to develop
pride in and fully embrace ALL parts of their full-ancestry
Learn all you can about your family histories.
Knowledge is power.
BACK TO WORKS AND CAREER
Your novel Love on the Line focuses on the life experiences of a
very light-complexioned woman who is of the African-American (AA)
interracial-marriage and is the parent of a white-complexioned child whose
Is the subject matter of your novels (ex. Love on the Line)
written from the perspectives of personal experience or
observations and / or of some other source of inspiration
I think my upbringing and appearance give me a unique
perspective on the subject of identity, how it is defined, and
even how it is often mistaken as a matter of importance
in situations that really have nothing to do with race.
In LOVE ON THE LINE, I wanted to portray a dramatic, but not soap
opera drama, story of a light-skinned African-American mother
and her biracial daughter dealing with issues I know well.
I am a light-skin, fair-haired, green-eyed African-American.
I've reared, with my husband, a daughter
and two sons of biracial heritage.
In a very real way, you could say I have lived my heroine's
life, though not shared all of her particular problems.
It was very important to me that the characters don't hate
themselves, or that someone in the story is a `bad' guy.
These things are easy.
How to make a marriage work,
that's what I wanted to write about.
LOVE ON THE LINE is a companion to a
book CROSSING THE LINE (2002) that
specifically dealt with issues of racial identity.
LOVE ON THE LINE takes the story further.
It continues the story of Thea Morgan
business exec, widow and single mom,
woman in love and her fiancé charismatic
African-American Xavier Thornton wealthy
former football star, man of the cloth,
returning missionary AND their
families, associates and challengers.
But wait, there's more.
Thea's biracial daughter Jesse is leaving for
college Simmons in upper New York State .
Her white father's parents, of THE Philadelphia
Morgans, not only support the college, there's
a building with their name on it on campus.
Jesse's trying to hide that legacy, the
fact that she's a virgin, and that she's
biracial in order to reinvent herself.
She wants to be liked and loved
just for herself, not because of the
many labels that have been attached to her.
What she learns is: no baggage doesn't equal no problems!
Through it all, Thea tries to keep
the mother-daughter ties strong at
the same time she and Xavier start a
new life together and her career heats up.
That would seem to be enough for
any marriage but there's more:
Though Thea and Xavier have a same-race marriage it
does not appear that way to Xavier's new parishioners,
who have many eyebrows to rise concerning his "white",
citified, businesswoman wife and her outsider ways.
They say "love conquers all" but it
certainly has its hands full in this story!
Can you share with us some of viewpoints and observations that
you have concluded about life ---- from the perspective of being a
person who is in an interracial marriage; is of an MGM-Mixed
I believe that for each situation, the choices can be different
and that`s okay, as long as the issue is not ignored or denied.
YOUR PERSONAL VIEWS
What do you feel is the foundation of love and do you think any of it
ties into respect, equality, commitment, unity or some other matter?
I believe that love, mature love, must be based on the desire to put
the other person first, believing that they will put you first, too.
That doesn't mean buying anything
you want, or just doing what you want.
That's being selfish.
I mean wanting the person you love to
be happy, and trying to help that happen.
Sharing the good and the bad.
Sometimes a person just needs a shoulder to lean on.
The other person doesn't have to fix the problem.
Adults know that. That's why adults should marry.
And very important -- marriage
is a business partnership
My mother told me that marriage is two people setting up a
family business with assets, responsibilities, bills, and a future.
You need to be certain you agree or are
working to agree on the major things in life:
work ethic, having children, rearing children,
money (earning and spending) and plan for
what you want to have in the future: a home, etc.
Love isn't enough to make a marriage but I believe
you should be in love for marriage to work.
Last but not least, it's a spiritual journey.
God should be in the blessing of the union.
Thank you so much for your consideration in taking
time out of your extremely busy schedule to chat
with our fellow community members, Laura.
It has been such a pleasure speaking with your and your sharing
of your thoughts on these important subject matters are and
have been so very appreciated by both myself and all
the members of the Generation-Mixed community.
To read more about the person, the works and the world
views of our fellow Generation-Mixed community
member prolific author, Laura Parker-Castoro
feel free to visit any of the following web sites.