A black and white photo of Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of "Real American: A Memoir." She has dark, curly hair and is wearing a necklace.

Julie Lythcott-Haims sold Girl Scout cookies and later ran track in high school. But as a black and biracial woman, Lythcott-Haims says her identity was often questioned, even though she felt as American as her peers. As the descendant of a South Carolina slave and her owner, Lythcott-Haims writes, “I’m so American it hurts,” She joins Forum to talk about her book “Real American: A Memoir”, what it means to be a real American and the racism and microaggressions she faced throughout her life.

Guest:

Julie Lythcott-Haims, author & public speaker, “Real American: A Memoir” and “How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success”

Related Links:

KQED’s MindShift: Stepping Back from Overparenting: A Stanford Dean’s Perspective

Julie Lythcott-Haims on Being a ‘Real American’ and Growing Up Black 14 September,2017Mina Kim

  • Curious

    Does the guest experience more racism and “microagressions” from blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians or some other ethnic group?

  • EIDALM

    There is only one race, that is the human race, as all human features and skin color are only depends on geographic locations and the amount of Sun exposer, on the other hand, slavery, racial hatred, and unfairness toward African Americans puts real eternal shame on the U S government, people, and all for the total unjust cruel and violent way they treated African Americans within the last several centuries,

    • Curious

      America has led the world on racial equality. Muslims still practice slavery.

      • Mjhmjh

        I think you’re looking at America’s racial history through rose-colored spectacles. The date of the “Loving” case, alone, gives the lie to your assertion.

    • Curious

      The north African nation of Mauritania has tried three times to abolish slavery within its borders, most recently in 2007, and three times it has failed. Though the most recent effort established tougher legal penalties — 10 years prison time for holding slaves, two years for “promoting” slavery — the practice remains pervasive, with an estimated half million Mauritanians enslaved, about 20 percent of the population. Mauritanian slaves are forbidden from owning property, a last name, or legal custody of their own children.

    • Curious

      Georgetown professor of Islamic studies Dr. Jonathan Brown provide cover for slavery. In a speech on slavery in Islamic thought, Brown said, “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.”

      He added, “the Prophet of God [Mohammed] had slaves … There’s no denying that. Was he—are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No you’re not.”

    • Curious

      In Yemen, most slaves were freed in the 1960s, but researchers confirmed cases of slavery as recently as 2010. Al-Jazeera covered slavery in Yemen in a documentary feature exposing the brutal realities of the continued practice.

    • Curious

      Despite protestations to the contrary and legislation on the books opposing slavery, the practice is alive and well in many Arab countries today, justified with reference to traditionalist understandings of Islam.

    • Curious

      In which Muslim-majority countries does slavery remain a problem? Here’s an alphabetical listing of this phenomenon, with additions as appropriate:

      Afghanistan: Mostly concerns boys.
      Mali: Arabs and Touareg own blacks.
      Mauritania: Slavery remains a major institution. Nov. 11, 2013 update: For current developments and some pictures, see “Mauritania Confronts Long Legacy of Slavery.”
      Oman: A Human Rights Watch report, “‘I Was Sold’: Abuse and Exploitation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Oman,” documents the circumstances of some foreign laborers in that country that it calls “at the very least dangerously close to situations of slavery.” (July 13, 2016 update)
      Pakistan: Mostly a rural phenomenon.
      Saudi Arabia: Despite a 1962 law banning the practice, it remains in place. A leading theologian even states that to reject Shar’i slavery is not to be a Muslim.
      Sudan: Chattel slavery returned in force with civil war in the 1990s.
      Yemen: As in Saudi Arabia – a 1962 legal abolishment has not been fully effective.

  • EIDALM

    If you accept the false concept of race, then you must then use the word Caucasian instead which refers more 50% living on the planet, far exceeds those living in northern Europe, with this in mind please check the U S census bureau classifications as who are white Americans and their national origin.

  • geraldfnord

    Perhaps I’m just ‘whiny’, but Mr Bannon claims not to be racialist, but rather an ‘American nationalust’, I have never felt secure in the belief that he includes me, and for that matter many other Americans.

    More generally, beware of ‘real’—if you grow up thinking you’re American, or female, or African-American, and someone comes aling telling you that you’re in danger of not being a ‘real American’, a ‘real woman’, a ‘real African-American’, they’re defining the term narrowly and holding it hostage for their own ends.

    • Curious

      We just had 8 years of the lecturer-in-chief telling us what “our values” are and aren’t.

  • Julia Bueno Alvarez

    In response to the question: My Daddy is a 30 year Army Veteran. He fought through Korea and Vietnam. I share your immense pride for your Daddy because mine is my hero. I was raised to be a ardent patriot.
    I am married to an immigrant who is impacted by the current political climate. We have two beautiful daughters. The thought of our family being torn apart is currently my biggest fear. That fear makes me feel rejected by the country I love.

    • Curious

      You mean “impacted by the law” because he is committing crimes?

  • Another Mike

    Your acquaintances not seeing you as black is still a positive step, because they are used to seeing black people as The Other, not part of their group, which is their working definition of what human beings are. What they are really doing is acknowledging you are their equal.

    • mac

      But that’s the issue. “You are their equal” isn’t something others get to decide. It’s similar to saying “she can do anything a man can do.” Like there’s a benchmark for equality, white or male. Which is the problem with saying that.

      • Another Mike

        It very much matters if people see you as “one of them” or “The Other.” Poles who saw Jews as “one of them” fed them and hid them from the Nazis. Poles who saw Jews as “The Other” did not.

        • mac

          Your example of Poles and Jews is non sequitur. Blacks would be “the other” only by way of seeing them from within a system built for whites. Whites shouldn’t get to decide who they let in and who they keep out, but that is what they are doing when they use terms such as “you are their equal”.

          • Another Mike

            I’m sorry you don’t comprehend it, but I can’s make it any simpler for you. Deciding who is in the ingroup and who is in the outgroup is something we all do, every day.

          • mac

            I’m sorry you don’t comprehend it either. “Deciding who is in the ingroup and who is in the outgroup is something we all do, every day” is only done, at least in this country, by people in positions of power, namely, white males. Lowest common denominator for you.

  • jdoubleu

    Your guest is exactly how & why sterotypes are formed. She’s angry. Why? If she would leave the U.S. and travel, she would see color and race are everywhere. Over 1 billion people are still “sorted” (just like a Harry Potter book) in India: by color and class. People are still sorted in England by class and schooling (public and private). If she would leave the U.S., she would see this in 100 countries around-the-world. If she would travel to Alaska, she would see white “Eskimos” are treated differently. If she would travel to Hawai’i, she would see white Caucasians and white people of Japanese or Chinese backgrounds are treated differently BY people OF COLOR. (In Hawai’i, whites are the minority, so they hear “haole” yelled at them.)

    • Mjhmjh

      You think that people in the States aren’t “sorted”? Here, they’re sorted, from Day One. by their family’s economic status. Soimetimes this is affected by race, too. But not always. The American Dream is just a myth for all but a very few children who are born poor.Most of them face insurmountable economic hurdles wherever they turn.

    • MtngFthdl

      Well, she was born overseas and has traveled widely, so… And just because someone shouted “haole” at you once on your vacation doesn’t mean your people were enslaved for centuries or are killed/undereducated/overincarcerated/not believed today. And there’s no reason to be angry if lots of folks experience oppression – wha–? This would benefit from some critical thinking.

      • jdoubleu

        Critical thinking: how about jumping to conclusions? I was BORN in Hawai’i. (As were my sibilings…) Racism is everywhere. I’ve traveled to more than 70 countries for work.

  • Katrina P

    Thank you. I struggle now with my identity as half mexican and white. You bring me to tears.

  • Another Mike

    As the caller suggests, the person in the “inferior” position must learn to negotiate with people in the superior position. Thus women have to learn how to read and influence the men in their lives, and black people have to learn how to read and influence the white people around them.

  • Jennifer J

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Julie Lythcott-Haims. Your intelligence, awareness and honesty are medicine for our times and can make a difference for many. I have pre-ordered Real American and can’t wait to read it.

  • Mjhmjh

    I found thge speaker’s reading of “the talk” extremely moving.. It gave me, the mother of white sons, a better understanding of the daily injustices faced by young black men – more so than many newspaper reports of relevant incidents, where one can never be sure of the degree of bias of the writer.. I thank her.

  • GramGramY

    I am of white Eastern European heritage. My daughter’s father is African. I deliberately CHOSE to raise my child in Oakland…. This was 48 years ago. AND from Oakland–she was accepted at and got her B.A. from Stanford. I can relate to much of what the author is saying but also as it relates to my grandchildren….

  • mac

    I wonder if other “kinds” of bi-racial children experience any of this. Do Asian-White kids think of themselves as Asian? White? Are Hispanic-Whites really seen as brown people? Do they even need an identity like Black-White kids seem to? And why didn’t you leave your white and economically privileged world that you seem to loathe? You stayed in and continued on the same path because it served you. Your background, as a rich kid in a rich neighborhood growing up? That allowed you access to all the best of everything; that allowed you to be popular and a student council president; that allowed you to go to Stanford and Harvard and now live the 1% life in Palo Alto. It served you. You didn’t go to the University of Wisconsin because you could choose to perpetuate your privileged life and go to the designer university! There was no skin color barrier. Your family could afford a Stanford education and you got it. The barriers of race and self-hate are diminished when you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

    • Another Mike

      A correspondent of mine referred to herself as a “happy hapa.”

  • Maggie Reed

    I am a white woman (but a dark one) and what are you is a question I have gotten my whole life. I didn’t take it as a real issue until college when I connected with other communities and understood that people were trying to figure out if I was mexican or arabic (both common guesses…)and realized that people were trying to figure out what was safe to say around me/to me…Now my best friends (who happen to be latina and persian respectively) and I have fun with it with a game called racially ambiguous bingo and ask “what do you think I am?” And then if someone is an idiot I embarrass them. I am “woke” enough to know that this is different than what the interviewee is talking about. Blackness in america is so incredibly loaded and no one has ever thought I was black, but race here is so packed in with social stature that it is unhealthy. Anyway- I loved this interview and really connected to it even if it is not my exact story.

Host

Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor