Bahai News -- The Charlotte Observer - Author shares her life in biracial family Posted on Fri, Jul. 18, 2003

Author shares her life in biracial family

Woman hopes people will overcome racism by getting to know others

Special Correspondent

Lynn Markovich Bryant knows many of the indignities suffered by Southern blacks.

And while this community has been a vital part of her life, the St. Helena Island woman is not what some might expect ... she's white.

Now, after 24 years of teaching in the very same formerly segregated school that she attended as a child, Bryant has recorded her experiences in the autobiography " `I'm Black and I'm Proud' wished the white girl."

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Bryant, 47, will discuss and sign copies of her book at the Rock Hill Branch of York County Library.

The book tells the story of Bryant's experiences with race and discrimination after moving to South Carolina as a child.

After the death of her biological father when she was 8, Bryant and her three siblings, all the products of white parents, were relocated from northern Michigan to South Carolina when their mother married a black resident of St. Helena Island.

With the addition of six children from her new stepfather, and eventually four biracial children from the new marriage, Bryant's family soon became considerably diverse and multiethnic ... a situation that was not well-received by the white community. "In the South, it's difficult to be in a biracial situation," Bryant said. "Everyone wants you to choose a side."

Bryant said that she was rejected by white culture due to her racially blended family and that she experienced much of the same discrimination as her black siblings. In contrast, Bryant was fully accepted by the black community. "The black culture by nature is a very helping and accepting culture," she said.

This cold shoulder from the white community soon led Bryant to "hate white people."

"Once I got into the black community, I tried to get rid of my white traits," said Bryant. "I didn't want them to think I was prejudiced."

Bryant chose to attend St. Helena Elementary School, a black school, in 1966 and continued on this path until she attended an integrated high school years later, and then enrolled in Clemson University. While in college, Bryant said she faced a great deal of racism in and out of the classroom and went through several roommates who did not agree with her multiethnic ties and friendships. This social pressure eventually led to a breakup with her college sweetheart, who happened to be black. "That experience hurt me deeply," Bryant said. "Racism attacks you from all points of view, and it's personal."

It wasn't until she faced the open-minded and accepting attitudes of two of her white roommates in graduate school that Bryant began to reopen her mind about the white race ... and even bigots.

"You're only the product of your experiences," Bryant said. "People who are racist were probably raised that way. If my father had been the Grand Dragon of the KKK, I would have a completely different perspective."

Bryant also credits much of her change of heart to her adherence to the Bahá'í religion, of which her biological parents and her stepfather were also members. The Bahá'í faith, which was founded in the 19th century and has roughly 5 million followers worldwide, stresses the existence of mankind as a single race and encourages efforts to unify global society. In 1978, Bryant returned to St. Helena Elementary School to teach, and after more than 20 years, decided to share the lessons in her autobiography. And while she holds that racism has been an ever-present problem, she sees the present now as a particularly appropriate time for her book's message.

"I've looked at how we judge the world at large," said Bryant. "We had a lot of people after 9/11 filled with hate, and I just wanted people to think about what any type of racism does to people ... and not only discrimination against blacks, but against anybody with a different culture."

While Bryant talked of possible plans for a sequel down the road, for now she has high hopes for her book and the message she hopes it will transmit to the world.

"Each person has to do what they can do in their own life," Bryant said. "We hold biases because we don't know people. The best way to undo racism is to get to know people."

Want to Go?

Lynn Markovich Bryant will give a reading of her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the York County Library, 138 E. Black St. in Rock Hill. She will also sell and sign copies at the appearance. For more information, call (803) 981-5837.

©Copyright 2003, Charlotte Observer (NC, USA)

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