Family Connections

Recently, my half brother found me on LinkedIn. We hadn’t  spoken or seen each other in over 20 years. He apologized for not having stayed in touch. In an odd way, I felt like this was a kind of role reversal since about 20 odd years ago, I had written to him to tell him of my existence. It was role reversal because this time it was my turn to be suspicious of the other’s motives and question why he’d sought me out after so much time. I’ve experienced a merry-go-round of emotions. There’s still a lot that neither one of us knows. Where does curiosity verge into actual caring? How close can or should we be?  For the record, I have to say my best friend David has played the role of brother for about 16 years now. My brother and I share our father. We spoke on the phone and it was awkward, but overall pleasant. It is difficult to know how much disclosure one should give or how much is actually wanted.  Our father is white, my mother is Afro-Latina – his mother is white) – I remembered the scene in the documentary Secret Daughter, by June Cross, who is biracial, when she explained how difficult it would have been to acknowledge June to a certain set of friends even in the present day, because her mother, Norma, had built a certain life for herself and her friends wouldn’t have understood or accepted it. June accepted this. I also remembered the scene with Lynn Whitfield (mixed & interracially married) and Halle Berry (who is also biracial) when they appeared in Oprah Winfrey Presents the Wedding, in which Lynn, who played Halle’s mother, was trying to warn her about marrying her white fiance, basically cautioning her to make sure they really love each other, because otherwise, she (Berry’s character) would be thought of as “a stain on his family’s bedsheets” or a mark of embarrassment or shame. I would be lying if I said that I never wondered whether it would have been easier for my brother to accept me if I looked very much like him instead of the beige self that I am.

I can’t know what it felt for him to have a total stranger write to him and say “Hi, I’m your half-brother”.  I honestly don’t know how I’d react had I been on the receiving end, but I’m sure I’d have had some uneasiness/suspicion.