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Randall Kennedy's "Interracial Intimacies" story to come soon.
"I Have A Dream"
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.
One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Lovely Swirling Misfortune
A poem derived from the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe
By Kamara Jones
His laugh, proper and suburbanized;
His baby blues contrast with my brown eyes.
His skin as pure as falling snow;
mine soft and toasted sweet cocoa.
His family and their European rays;
my family recalling slavery days.
His ancestors supposedly did not know any better
or understand how mine kissed the equator.
Together our lives differentiate:
his existing trust fund and my brown fate.
Despite our hues my heart inscribes his name,
Massa Charlie to his sista Hattie Mae.
Wanting to warm him with a blanket of love;
Cupid's rejection arrows come from above.
Could he ever conceive my mahoghany connotation?
View me with lust and painful admiration?
Caress my body out of curiosity and desire?
Twist racist bigots into bold-faced liars?
Leave his box and understand my views?
Adore my ethnicity like a race-relating Muse?
love, ultimately halted by xenophobic fire,
swirls disentangled by frightened screwdrivers.
Boundless relationship purposely smothered;
black and white will not make gray ...
Simply because of color.
Kamara Jones is a high school student in Columbia, Mo.
The best "F"word of all
An open letter to our readers:
When you think of July, you think of freedom, right?
- Freedom to live, to think, to speak, to worship, to carry arms (in some places!)
- Freedom to love whomever we please.
- Freedom to be identified however we please
- Freedom to create an expression of that love in the form of a child. Or not.
- Freedom to adopt whatever kind of child we please. Or not.
For the most the part, we have those rights even in places where people might now wholly agree.
So then, why are we still talking about it? Why are you reading this Web site? Why does New People even exist?
We go back to our mission statement, "New People vows to take an objective, truthful look interracial relations in our world. We vow to publish different points of view from many different voices." We still are comfortable with that. We hope you are.
But when we read headlines such as last months "School creates integrated prom" and "this months letter from a young biracial person who decries her existence, we feel sad. We wonder, how far have we really come?
Dan and I spent one Friday evening watching the Kansas City Royals whup the San Diego Padres. I looked one row below and saw an interracial couple. I looked one row back and saw another. No one else was looking at them, only at first, second and third base. Thats good.
When we used to spot couples like us out and about, we smiled and whispered to each other our code for interracial couples: "IC."
We dont do that anymore, because we see them so frequently.
The world is changing, and I feel confident our freedoms will remain, sometimes at some discomfort, but still they will be there. But when we feel them slipping, we must remember it is up to us to maintain our freedoms.
Because no one else will do it for us.
Happy Independence Day!
Yvette and Dan Hollis
White professor finds out he's not
By Steve Sailer
UPI National Correspondent
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
LOS ANGELES, May 8 -- How white are blacks? How black are whites? Because African-Americans and European-Americans have been in contact, sometimes intimate, since 1619, these questions are central to Americans' collective self-understanding. In recent years, genetic techniques for accurately determining the answers have finally become available.
Molecular anthropologist Mark D. Shriver heads a group of nine population researchers at Penn State University who are going beyond the arbitrary "one drop of blood" rule to answer these ancient questions about the family trees of the typical American "black" and "white." They have examined DNA samples from 3,000 individuals in 25 locations around America, mostly self-identified African-Americans, looking for the gene markers that tend to differ between Europeans and Africans.
Shriver pointed out that genetically tracking admixture is difficult because differences even between sub-races, such as Scandinavian vs. West African, account for only about ten percent of human genetic variation. "Thus, we are all more alike than we are different," he noted.
Besides illuminating American history, Shriver hopes to use his ability to determine racial admixture to locate genes associated with illnesses that affect one race more than the other -- such as diabetes, prostate cancer, and hypertension, which are more prevalent among African-Americans, and dementia and osteoporosis among whites.
To Shriver, the most personally stunning of his findings involved one subject who reported himself to be completely white, yet whose genetic analysis showed that 22 percent of his relatively recent ancestors were African.
"I had the result for two or three years before I even looked up the ID number of the person whom we tested," a bemused Shriver recounted. "I looked at who it was and it was me! I checked myself and the rest of my relatives and tracked it through my family."
"I never considered that there were any African people in my family," remarked the 36-year-old Shriver, who looks like a typical white American. He has wavy brown hair and light skin that burns easily, but also tans darkly. His siblings look completely European, too. "There's no real variation in my family. The admixture must have been pretty far back. It just so happens that we can detect it with the markers we have."
"My mom especially stood out as being surprised, maybe because I told her it was coming through her father." He credits his Catholic parents with providing him with a "balanced, open, and egalitarian perspective about people. But, still, she doesn't believe it about her family!"
"The part of Pennsylvania where my mother's father came from is where the Underground Railroad ended," Shriver observed, referring to the network that smuggled escaped slaves north to freedom. "There are several towns right here in Southern Pennsylvania where there are very light-skinned African-American communities that are the remnant of the Underground Railroad."
His maternal grandfather moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa, then to California, leaving behind in the process most of his ties with his relatives. Shriver is considering trying to track down his maternal grandfather's relations in Pennsylvania. The subject of black-white admixture is particularly complicated because, since the later 17th Century, Americans with virtually any visible sub-Saharan African ancestry (the so-called "one drop of blood") have been socially categorized as simply African. Only recently has society begun to tolerate individuals like Tiger Woods (who is one-half East Asian, one-quarter sub-Saharan African, one-eighth European, and one-eighth Native American) defining themselves as anything other than as African. Indeed, Woods was criticized by some African-Americans in 1997, following the first of his three Masters' victories, for not submitting to the "one drop" definition.
Is Shriver's ancestry fairly typical for an American? In two ways, it is. First, more than 50 million whites, according to his analyses, have at least one black ancestor. Another way to approach the question is to group together all the whites and blacks in America and calculate their mean degree of admixture.
Shriver's data shows that on average, they would be about 12 or 13 percent African. So, Shriver, at 22 percent African, is fairly close to the mean. Yet, from another perspective, Shriver is highly unusual. Even though his family tree is similar in its racial balance to the theoretical mean for blacks and whites combined, there simply aren't many African-Americans or European-Americans with anywhere near his level of admixture. Shriver pointed out, "There is a very small degree of overlap in the population distributions." In America, most of the whites are extremely European and most of the blacks are quite African.
Despite the notorious arbitrariness of the "one drop" rule, the actual American population conforms to its strictures surprisingly closely. Granted, the "one drop" rule would be laughed out of existence if anyone attempted to impose it on a land with a more genetically blended population, such as Puerto Rico (which Shriver has begun to study). Yet, it appears possible that the rule survives in the U.S. because it's not too wildly inaccurate. Only a small fraction of the population resembles Shriver in being more than half, but less than 90 percent European.
Among self-identified whites in Shriver's sample, the average black admixture is only 0.7 percent. That's the equivalent of having among your 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents (who lived around two centuries ago), 127 whites and one black. It appears that 70 percent of whites have no African ancestors. Among the 30 percent who do, the black admixture is around 2.3 percent, which would be like having about three black ancestors out of those 128.
In contrast, African-Americans are much more racially mixed than European-Americans. Yet, Shriver's study shows that they are less European that was previously believed. Earlier, cruder studies, done before direct genetic testing was feasible, suggested that African-Americans were 25 or even 30 percent white. Shriver's project is not complete, but with data from 25 sites already in, he is coming up with 17-18 percent white ancestry among African-Americans. That's the equivalent of 106 of those 128 of your ancestors from seven generations ago having been Africans and 22 Europeans.
According to Shriver, only about 10 percent of African-Americans are over 50 percent white. This genetic database is restricted to adults. Black-white married couples quadrupled in number between the 1960 Census and 1990 Census, so the admixture rates among children are no doubt higher than among adults. Political conservatives have taken to denouncing the "one drop" rule -- George Will recently called it "Probably the most pernicious idea ever to gain general acceptance in America" -- perhaps because it is used to determine who qualifies for affirmative action for blacks. Many opponents of racial preferences now argue that it is absurd to award benefits based on this arbitrary definition. This view is embodied in Ward Connerly's upcoming Racial Privacy Initiative, which would partially ban the state of California from demanding citizens categorize themselves by race. The number of mostly white but a little-bit-black young people -- the kind who cause confusion for affirmative action classification schemes -- is growing as interracial marriage becomes more popular. On the other hand, as Shriver's data shows, there aren't yet all that many adults who fall genetically in the "gray zone" between the races. Perhaps at present the "one drop" rule, for all its theoretical folly, still is indeed good enough for government work -- assuming that government work should include racial preferences, which are now illegal in California.
The admixture rates vary by region. The African-American populations with the highest average numbers of white ancestors found so far are those in California and Seattle. They average a little over one-quarter European ancestry. In contrast, according to a recent article published by Shriver's team in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the Gullahs of the long-isolated Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, who are famous for speaking a pleasantly African-sounding dialect, are only 3-4 percent white.
In the rest of the rural South, African-Americans tend to be not as black as the Gullahs, but still blacker than the national average. Shriver's team found that the white admixture percentage in four Lowland farm counties in South Carolina was 12 percent. Cities, whether Northern or Southern, tend to be about average. In terms of white ancestry among African-Americans, New York is a little above the mean, while Philadelphia is a little below. Jackson, Miss., is near the norm. The African-Americans of New Orleans average 22 percent white. This fairly high number reflects the influence of Spanish and French mores in Louisiana. Latin cultures have no "one drop" rule, so intermarriage was somewhat more socially acceptable there. Advocates of the growing popular idea that race is merely a "social construct" with no biological reality point to the artificiality of the "one drop" rule as evidence for their view. Yet, it's possible that the "one drop" rule itself helped to construct the genetic reality that Shriver has uncovered.
Latin cultures, which lack the one drop rule, create more evenly blended populations, as Shriver has helped document among Mexican-Americans. He and his colleagues found that Hispanics in certain New Mexico and Colorado locales averaged 58 percent white ancestry, 39 percent New World Indian, and three percent African. In contrast to the "bimodal distribution" of blacks and whites in America, Mexican-Americans clustered around their average admixture level of 58 percent European.
For centuries, however, American whites defined anyone with visible black ancestry as ineligible to marry a white. (It wasn't until 1967 that the Supreme Court overturned the "anti-miscegenation" laws that were then still in force in 19 states.) This meant that mixed race people could seldom marry white people. Unless, that is, they were white-looking enough to pass for white, and were willing to pull up their roots and move to a different part of the country where they could assume a white identity. This happened not infrequently in American history. For instance, one of the slave Sally Hemmings' one-eighth black sons (who, according to geneticists, was fathered by either Thomas Jefferson or one of his relations) moved to Madison, Wis., after he was freed and founded a family of socially identified whites. Nonetheless, Shriver's data suggests that well over 90 percent of the African genes in Americans are still found in people who call themselves black. Over the generations, mixed-race lineages would tend to either pass into the white population and become more white with each generation's marriage to a white person, or stay in the African-American population. If the latter, the families would normally become more genetically African over time as their offspring married African-Americans. Thus, the "one drop" rule helped make African-Americans and European-Americans into two social groups whose members -- despite sometimes being highly varied in ancestry -- are perhaps more distinct on average in their family trees than the arbitrariness of the "one drop" would lead you to initially assume. In the final article in the series: What happened to the Africans of Mexico?
Tiger Woods has embraced his multiracial identity, but not without some derision.
Kids of interracial families -- the last hurdle?
By Yvette Walker Hollis
I used to say that the only way to get rid of intolerance is to breed it out.
Simply populate the world with multiracial children, and let nature run its course. That, of course, is foolish -- as if multiracial kids can't be prejudiced, and non-multiracial people can't be tolerant. However, as I look around, seeing smiling interracial couples in magazines, clothing catalogs, on TV and in the movies, and I wonder if such couples finally are accepted, I have to add:
But what about the children?
Historically, that always has been the copout in any conversation about interracial marriage. I thought we had gotten past it, along with society's suspicion of two people who look a little different from each other, finding happiness. But reading our two columnists and their views about the challenges of multiracial kids and adults, I wonder, is this the last thing we have to get past?
Movies filled with "tragic mulatto" messages aren't as prevalent as they once were, and there are success stories: Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, Halle Berry. But, as Francis Wardle writes, the National Association of Black Social Workers continues to fight transracial adoption, and as Elliott Lewis writes, the "multiracial community" is split between those who want to force everyone to identify one way, vs. others who want more free choice, one must wonder about how far we have come.
What do you think? Is interracial marriage accepted, but the products of those unions still discriminated against?
Black Judge Who OK'd Mixed Marriages Reinstated 113 Years Later
The Associated Press reported that Judge James Dean, the South's first African-American county judge in Key West, Fla., was found to be illegally removed from his office 113 years ago after OKing an interracial marriage. Calvin Allen, a Key West lawyer who read about him in the local newspaper's history column, was inspired to clear his name. Allen found in his research that the governor lacked the authority to remove judges. He and a committee of lawyers from the National Bar Association presented the case to Gov. Jeb Bush's office in December for reconsideration. Bush's spokesperson Elizabeth Hirst said details of the reinstatement haven't been worked out but that the governor "thinks that it's more than appropriate to posthumously restore (Dean) and bring back some dignity to what he contributed to the state of Florida."
Interracial dating -- from Ads to Zebra
By Yvette Walker Hollis
A reader wanted to place an interracial dating ad with us a couple of months ago. I wrote to him that we didn't run ads, but that we would ask readers to answer his question about meeting women of a different race, and how to go about that. There are no easy answers, and that is possibly why we didn't receive many answers to his question, though I encourage people to read our guest book, where there are many stories and testimonials.
So why am I chiming in? Because I did meet my husband through a personals ad 13 years ago. And while it did work for me, it certainly isn't the only way to meet people. I can't even say I recommend this method for everyone. The most important thing for you to know is that relationships aren't about color, gender or ethnic persuasion. If you are searching for an individual because you think you like women or men of a certain color, you are going about it all wrong.
However, if you are OPEN to meeting your dream mate of whatever color or ethnicity, it is likely to happen. Can ads work? Possibly, but there are a lot of people out there who place ads for the wrong reasons. Be they colorstruck, looking for sex, dangerous or truly sincere, you are taking a chance. If you answer or place ads, use a little common sense and don't give your address or phone number to the person you are meeting, use a P.O. Box, the periodical's forwarding service or e-mail, to correspond at first. Arrange a meeting in the daytime in a public place. Let your friends know where you are going and whom you plan to see. Know the person's name, address and phone number, and give it to someone you trust.
Dan and I communicated by letter, then decided to meet in a French pastry shop in Dallas, in 1988. We hit it off, and the rest is history. Before that, I dated on and off, and didn't discriminate in color or ethnicity. I wanted to find someone I thought could be my partner, my friend. It was difficult. Like the reader, even though I was attracted to many different kinds of men, most of my friends thought I only wanted to meet people who they thought looked like me. But what if there is someone out there who is perfect for you, except he or she has a different color skin, hair texture, shape of nose?
Of course, this was more than a decade ago. I can only hope that people are more open these days. If you have a wide circle of friends, treat everyone equally, show interest in all types of people, I believe people will get the message. And, be sure to tell the people closest to you, people you trust, that you are interested in dating all types of people.
Some people try dating services or ads, others rely on workplace romances, meeting people through church or the "time-honored" meeting place, bars. Some work, others do not. You will have to be patient. Your special friend is out there somewhere.
Once you find that person, depending on where you live, you might get stares, disapproval or no reaction at all. Dan and I have lived in Texas, Michigan, Kansas and Missouri. We have traveled extensively, and never have we been an object of derision. As editors of a paper magazine and an electronic one, we do get the occasional rude message. But we expect that.
Be ready for whatever. Times have changed, but this is not a perfect society by any means. But there are tons of people out there who are willing to see love beyond color lines. And if this is your destiny, it will happen. Simply be open to it.
You are probably wondering what the ad said that brought Dan and I together. Well, it was his ad, and he called himself a jazz lover, gave a brief description, then ended with the most important line of the whole ad. "Race unimportant."
That's the way to do it.
Interview with Sandra Kitt
New People: Hi.
Sandra Kitt: So nice to connect with you.
New People: Because our site deals with interracial relationships, parenting, biracial identity, and such, and because your books often deal with these issues, I wanted to let our readers know about you and about your latest novel. Can you tell us a little about "She's the one?"
Sandra Kitt: I'm happy to talk with you and the readers about my stories...and me! I do get a lot of questions from readers about why I write on the subject of interracial relationships, but I also have received hundreds of email from readers who love the books. So I'm pleased that my work resonates with readers.
"She's the One" is a story about class differences, and whether it's possible for people (a man and a woman) from diverse economic backgrounds and education levels, can form a relationship.
New People: And there is the question of parenting a biracial child that also comes into the fray, yes? And how the child impacts the relationship?
Sandra Kitt: Absolutely. Actually the story is complicated with many layers. There is the question of the biracial child. For Deanna, it's whether or not she's capable of raising a child at all. For Jade, it's a question of her adjusting to having lost her mother, as well as slowly coming to an awareness that she's not white, like her mother, but half black. Of course, Deanna and Patterson (her love interest) are both guilty of misconceptions, and stereotyping!
New People: I think your readers certainly notice the interracial themes in your books, but they also love the stories. I am sure you get asked this question: Has an interracial relationship impacted your life? Is that why you do what you do?
Sandra Kitt: It's mostly because I was raised in New York in a totally integrated society. I took being around different races for granted growing up, and no one that I knew made a big deal about it. It was only as an adult that I realized that a lot of people have trouble accepting intimate relationships between races. However, as I travel around the country I see open evidence of more and more of these kinds of coupling. I was curious to know what kinds of obstacles these men and women face as they try to build on their feelings.
New People: Is that why "The Color of Love" became the most popular of all your novels, that growing universal theme of an integrated society and interracial bonds? What does that say about romance readers?
Sandra Kitt: "The Color Of Love" is a story I believed in with my whole heart. I thought I'd done a good job of exploring the confusions of Jason and Leah, as they grappled with their feelings for each other, especially given all the opposition. But I wasn't prepared for the near cult following that's developed! The book is the favorite novel of readers that I meet and hear from. In their own words, they love the story of Jason and Leah! When I decided to make Jason not only white, but a cop, I thought I'd be burned in effigy, but that hasn't been the case. I wanted the readers to read beyond the romance between the two characters, and carefully examine how we define love, and what it means to really love. I believe that when people care deeply and completely for each other race is simply not an issue for them. It's an issue for other people.
New People: Let's talk about the romance genre for a moment. I grew up in the 1960s reading Harlequin, and seeing nary a face that looked like mine (brown). Now, we have black romances, interracial romances, even Latino romances, yes? But you were the pacesetter, the first black woman to write for Harlequin. What was that like?
Sandra Kitt: It was actually very easy for me to get my first Harlequin sold...probably because the editor was black as well! She was looking to make Harlequin not only more diverse, but more relevant to American women readers. Also, when I began writing, I was writing romances with both black and white main characters. I wrote the stories the way they came to my imagination, and didn't try to either censor them, or to make them conform to some standard, just to get published! My first three book came out in 1984. Two of the three books were romances with black main characters.
New People: Will this trend transfer to the big screen (and the small for that matter). When do you think we will begin to see more (real-life) interracial romances in movies and on TV. Perhaps a screenplay from one of your books?
Sandra Kitt: I think we're overdue for a realistic relationship movie about an interracial couple. "Jungle Fever" and even "The Bodyguard" (which was much better than I expected it to be) were just provocative. Neither story was written, or the characters developed, so that there was ANY chance of them staying together. I want to get beyond this hit-and-run mentality. "The Color of Love" has been optioned twice for films from a script that I wrote myself. The first time was for HBO, who eventually passed on the project. The second time was just about a year ago, by a production company in Hollywood who was trying to sell the idea to LIFETIME cable for women. Again, it was a pass. But I haven't given up. I STILL think that "The Color of Love" and even "Close Encounters" (another of her book's) would be perfect for TV or feature film.
New People: Good luck. I think New People readers would be very interested! If you wouldn't mind sharing some personal information with our readers ... are you married, with children? Does the promotional travel take a toll on your personal life?
Sandra Kitt: I've been divorced for six years, and I don't have any children (but I'm everyone's favorite aunt!). I actually enjoy the promotional tours, and try to be selective about my travel so I'll have time for a life! I also still have a full-time day job, so I have a lot of time challenges. I was sent on a promotional book tour for the release of "She's the One," and I loved the chance to meet readers and booksellers. The tours are work, but also for me a lot of fun.
New People: You are quite a prolific writer - 21 novels! How long does it take for you to write a book, and where do you get your ideas from? And all this while holding down a day job as manager of Library Services at New York City Hayden Planetarium!
Sandra Kitt: I get my ideas in two different ways. The first is when I use characters and a plot to try and answer a 'what if' or 'suppose' question I might be asking myself. Using SHE'S THE ONE as an example, I wanted to see if I could write a story about these two characters from very different backgrounds, and whether it was possible for them to get together. The other way I get ideas is from just studying people! I also read newspapers (I get a lot of ideas this way), magazines, and I love movies, which also stimulates my imagination. I keep a notebook of ideas. At the rate I'm going, however, I probably won't live long enough to write all of my ideas! Right now I'm working on no less than 4 proposals for 4 different book ideas. And I just finished writing my first erotic short story.
New People: Erotic short story? Can you tell us about it? What is the title? What exactly do you mean by erotic?
Sandra Kitt: I understand erotic to mean a story that explores the sensual and physical aspects of a relationship. It's more about the affect on the senses and emotions, than it is about sex! I've read some erotic fiction that has been lovely, even amusing! I think, however, writers have to be careful not to make the descriptions too much like soft porn. There's a very fine line difference, but there is a difference.
Sandra Kitt: My story is called "The Mechanic," and is about a young lawyer's brief encounter with a car mechanic, while she's rushing to get to court.
New People: Does this involve an interracial relationship?
Sandra Kitt: Actually, no. When I conceived of the idea the characters both came to me as black, so I just went with it as it was. I have written a second story which consists of four very short episodes, one of which is interracial. But it's not a 'romantic' encounter between the two characters.
New People: When and where will we see "The Mechanic" released? In print? Online?
Sandra Kitt: My understanding from the editor is that it will be published this winter in a book called "Brown Sugar 2." The original "Brown Sugar" was a paperback released last spring, which went on to get great reviews, and which also won several awards. It sold so well that the decision was to do a second volume. I was invited to submit a story for that second volume. They're hoping to have it available in time for Christmas, but I don't know for sure.
New People: Novelist E. Lynn Harris has said some nice things about you and your work. Is he a fan? Also, New People has interviewed Elizabeth Atkins Bowman about her interracially themed work. Do writers with similar themes find support from each other? Particularly minority themes such as gay issues, minority and interracial issues?
Sandra Kitt: For the most part, my experience has been that writers are very supportive and kind to each other. Not always, but most of the time. I'm very pleased by E. Lynn's comments! We do know each other, and I think he's a wonderful man. He has given me good advice, and had supported me by giving endorsements for "Close Encounters." Valerie Wilson-Wesley is a big fan of my books, and is always very complimentary. So is Eric Jerome Dickey, Paula Woods, Chassie West and Jayne Ann Krentz! The former Yale law professor, Derrick Bell, who now teaches at NYU and also writes, is also a supporter, so I feel blessed being surrounded by so much care! I'm not familiar with Elizabeth Atkins Bowman or her work. As a matter of fact, I don't know any of the other writers who currently are also using interracial themes in their work!
New People: Do you hope to expand your books beyond black-white, and tackle Asian, Latino and Native American characters?
Sandra Kitt: I'm always on the lookout for new ideas around the common theme of cross-cultural relationships. For many years I've had an idea I've wanted to write about an African American woman and an American Indian man. I happen to believe that the spirituality between the two groups are very similar, and I think there is much that we share. I'm also particularly interested because of my own American Indian background from both my mother and father's family.
New People: Ms. Kitt, I know you need to retire for the evening, and I appreciate your time. One last question for our readers? Would you ever interracially date or marry someone?
Sandra Kitt: Thank you Yvette. Yes, I would certainly marry interracially if I met the man with whom I felt I wanted to share my life. I have dated interracially since I was 13! As I mentioned, I grew up in an integrated society (my junior high school had something like 12 or 13 different ethnic groups as part of the student population) and it was always a matter of dating people whose company I enjoyed, who were fun, treated me with respect, and whom I trusted. However, NONE of my books is based on my own life.
New People: Good luck with the book, the movie proposals and your future work. Good night!
The books of Sandra Kitt
By Norma Martin
A partial list of some of Sandra Kitt's back titles:
"The Color of Love" (1995) -- An African-American commercial artist gets involved with a white police officer, whose son has just died.
"Significant Others" (1996) -- An African-American high school counselor, who looks white, tries to help one of her students, who is biracial, and ends up falling for the teen's wealthy father, who is African-American.
"Between Friends" (1998) -- A biracial journalist and her white childhood girlfriend, who has a preteen daughter, examine their longstanding friendship when they get involved with a former Navy SEAL, who is white, and whose family is also part of their childhood.
"Family Affair" (1999) -- An African-American art gallery owner who has a teen-age daughter becomes involved with this hot new African-American artist, who was her mother's foster child and her childhood tormentor. The art gallery owner grew up among the wealthy white family her mother worked for and dated their son, eventually having his child.
"Close Encounters" (2000) -- An African-American art teacher, who was adopted by a white family, gets caught in the crossfire of an undercover sting, eventually getting involved with the white cop who shot her.
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