It’s hard to believe that Halle Berry’s been on my radar screen for about 20 years now. I have lots of respect for her, so I am in no way picking on her (or her mother) by questioning some of the things she said in this article from Ebony magazine in 1992. I wonder if she still feels the same way today. I wonder if Nahla has had an impact on Halle’s concept of black, white, and biracial. I wonder if I’ll ever get to have a conversation with her about it!
Norment, Lynn. “Halle Barry: strictly business about show business.” Ebony. 1992
Confronting life’s obstacles is nothing new for Berry, who overcame the potentially damaging problem of being born to a Black father and White mother in a racist society.
Berry’s father left when Halle was 4, and she and her sister, Heidi, were raised by her mother, Judith. Race was never a problem, Berry says, growing up in Cleveland’s inner-city neighborhoods. All that changed when they moved to a racially mixed suburb and young Halle began hearing the taunts–“half-breed,” “mulatto” and “Oreo cookie”–and wondered what it all meant.
Judith Berry didn’t mince words.
“I’m White, and you are Black,” was her mother’s explanation. “Sure I can say that I’m biracial and technically I am,” says Halle, “but, as my mother said to me: ‘What do you see when you look in the mirror? You see what everyone else sees. They don’t know who your mother is, and they aren’t going to care.””
Since that conversation, Berry has called herself Black and now sees benefits from both of her heritages. She has little sympathy, she says, for individuals who use their biracial backgrounds as excuses for their troubles.
“I think the problems are made worse when people get on talk shows and make statements like, ‘I had a hard time because I was caught in the middle,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be that way. I think being biracial is one of the best things in the world.”
Norment, Lynn. “Halle Barry: strictly business about show business.” Ebony. 1992
I don’t really appreciate the “potentially damaging problem of being born to a Black father and White mother” statement. To me it seems like Norment had “tragic mulatto” on her mind when she wrote this. When I look at that picture of Halle Berry and her mother, I can see the resemblance. I wonder if what other people see and care about still matters more to people than what they as an individual see and care about in terms of their own sense of self. I mean, my retort would be “when I look in the mirror I see you somewhere in my reflection, and why should I not care who my mother is because ‘they’ won’t?”
“potentially DAMAGING problem?” That’s the 1st statement that struck me. Halle’s mom was probably just going along with societal views–back then. I don’t think that she meant any harm. I believe times are changing for the better. So it would be great to hear what Halle has to say about this today. Especially being that she has a child of her own. Would’nt she want her to learn how to embrace everything about herself?
Halle just talked about this very subject in the March 2009 edition of Essence.
“I doubt my daughter would have that type of identity crisis, because I will not allow her to grow up that way. I’ll have many talks with her about race starting at a young age, so she’ll know and be a lot more sophisticated about these matters than I was. She’ll definitely know about the Black side of who she is and be able to relate to it and celebrate it.”
There’s info in the article but that’s the main quote about this issue. Halle seems like she’s changed her POV. I can only image how awesome it will be for little Nahla to grow up with a mother who can easily relate to her biracial experience.
Well, thank you Karen! It is so good to know that. Hopefully her daughter will learn to form her own identity by listening and learning about her mom’s experiences. What a coincidence that Halle JUST talked about this last month in Essence.
There is another article by Lynn Norment entitled “Who’s Black and Who’s Not?” that you might find interesting. (Just Google the author’s name and the article’s title. Then click Google Books for the article as it actually appeared in Ebony, with photos.) The article does make a slight distinction between being multigenerational mixed versus being first generation mixed. However, at its core, the article amounts to unabashed advocacy of the one-drop rule. The comments toward the end of the article by Dr. Fairchild and Dr. Poussaint (the famed Cosby Show consultant) are sadly predictable. Although, I found one of Poussaint’s comments to be particularly shameful. In essence, mixed race people should simply disregard their own feelings and experiences and identify as Black, as to do otherwise would confuse and be emotionally hurtful to Black children. I get the sense that if you explained to children that another person is recognizing all of his or her ancestry — especially if this person has one parent from one group and another parent from another group, that many if not most children could understand or accept this. It is far too many adults, even 19 years after this article was written, that continue to have difficulty understanding or accepting this.
Sorry, I probably should have been clearer when saying “mixed” or “mixed race” above as these terms, like biracial or multiracial, are not limited to any one combination. Obviously my comments referred to those people whose mixture includes partial African ancestry.
Halle in the current Harper’s Bazaar:
On Nahla being biracial: Nahla will grow up in a completely different America. Obama is someone who’s more like her than not, who shares her history. Hopefully she’ll grow up in a world where it’ll be easier than I had it. I had a rough time. I was accused of stuffing the ballot box for my high school prom-queen election because they couldn’t believe the only black girl in the school won.
Thanks for the comments, ladies and gentlemen!
Genetically, it doesn’t matter if half of you white genes come from a couple of great grand daddies or on daddy, most african americans are biracial/multi-racial/ or whatever. There has been so much mixing passing, mixing, who is to say how “white” a white parent is or how “black” the black parent is unless they are straight from africa. Case in point, brown-skinned Michelle Obama has white ancestry. Also, remember the white family on oprah years ago who were related to Thomas Jefferson? Only it was through their ancestor-slave- Sally Hemmings.
Genetically, it doesn’t matter if half of your white genes come from a couple of great grand daddies (on each side) or one daddy, most african americans are biracial/multi-racial/ or whatever. There has been so much mixing, passing, mixing,… who is to say how “white” a white parent is or how “black” the black parent is unless one is straight from the mother country.. Case in point, brown-skinned Michelle Obama has white ancestry. Also, remember the white family on oprah years ago who was related to Thomas Jefferson? Only it was through their ancestor-slave- Sally Hemmings.
I thought Halle Berry was in a really caring relationship with hopes of a long-term marriage. Seems there aren’t things like contented marriages like mine any longer – 20 years wed and still cheerful.
wow, she i s half white and when accepting an oscar she
did so “for my people” her words. she considers herself to be
100% Negro. her mother must feel sad at times….
I would really like to see a photo of Halle’s biological father, does anyone happen to know if there are any in circulation, I tried Googling his name but nothing came up.
i think people should not waste alot of their time discussing black and white, after all it all has red blood. It doesnt matter how we are born or where, its all the same,i think i love halle berry because she has the most beautiful complexion any complete black or white person can ever have.Why should anyone make race abig dea? and why isnt anyone bothered about diabetes? i think its important for people to realise thats its too late to command the power of love.Halle’s dad was inlove with his mum, he never got attracted to ablack woman and thats it. Because of love there will not be black or white its all PEOPLE. and Gods people
race: all humans are of one race – ask E.T.!
ethnicity. all humans are of different ethnicities.
mixed ethnicity: mixed ethnic humans are not space aliens…
their blood and organs are interchangeable.
dignity: legalize scientific names for each mixed human subject to an individual’s decision to be, i.e., eurasian, euromex, eurafrica, afrosian, afromex, latasian, afsouam, etc.
honesty: the human race wants and needs to discuss what we’re “made” of until the subject is exhausted and becomes trite.
bottom line: (1) yellow, red, brown or white, black is a color and cannot, sanely, be used to designate a human’s ethnicity. and most certainly the color of a human is not it’s “race.” (2) behavior is mostly determined by home, social and cultural environment – not by skin color.
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