Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tough times for some multiracial families

More often, though, the difficulties are more nuanced, such as those faced by Kim and Al Stamps during 13 years as an interracial couple in Jackson, Miss.

Kim, a white woman raised on Cape Cod, met Al, who is black, in 1993 after she came to Jackson’s Tougaloo College to study history. Together, they run Cool Al’s — a popular hamburger restaurant — while raising a 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in the state with the nation’s lowest percentage (0.7) of multiracial residents.

The children are homeschooled, Kim said, because Jackson’s schools are largely divided along racial lines and might not be comfortable for biracial children. She said their family triggered a wave of “white flight” when they moved into a mostly white neighborhood four years ago — “People were saying to my kids, ’What are you doing here?”’

Making friends here has been really, really tough,” Kim said. “I’ll go five years at a time with no white friends at all.”

Yet some of the worst friction has been with her black in-laws. Kim said they accused her of scheming to take over the family business, and there’s been virtually no contact for more than a year.

“Everything was race,” Kim said. “I was called ’the white devil.”’

Her own parents in Massachusetts have been supportive, Kim said, but she credited her mother with foresight.

“She told me, ’Your life is going to be harder because of this road you’ve chosen — it’s going to be harder for your kids,”’ Kim said. “She was absolutely right.”

Al Stamps said he is less sensitive to disapproval than his wife, and tries to be philosophical.

“I’m always cordial,” he said. “I’ll wait to see how people react to us. If I’m not wanted, I’ll move on.”

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