Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

 

Hello Everyone,

This is a great article by Saulny of the New York Times.  Ebony, a reader and friend of mine, passed this on to me and I’d like to pass it along to you.  It gives me hope to know that the big crooked letter is more diverse.  And it changes perceptions.  Check it out for yourself and let’s discuss. 

Latrivia

By SUSAN SAULNY

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — For generations here in the deepest South, there had been a great taboo: publicly crossing the color line for love. Less than 45 years ago, marriage between blacks and whites was illegal, and it has been frowned upon for much of the time since.

So when a great job beckoned about an hour’s drive north of the Gulf Coast, Jeffrey Norwood, a black college basketball coach, had reservations. He was in a serious relationship with a woman who was white and Asian.

“You’re thinking about a life in South Mississippi?” his father said in a skeptical voice, recalling days when a black man could face mortal danger just being seen with a woman of another race, regardless of intentions. “Are you sure?”

But on visits to Hattiesburg, the younger Mr. Norwood said he liked what he saw: growing diversity. So he moved, married, and, with his wife, had a baby girl who was counted on the last census as black, white and Asian. Taylor Rae Norwood, 3, is one of thousands of mixed-race children who have made this state home to one of the country’s most rapidly expanding multiracial populations, up 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

In the first comprehensive accounting of multiracial Americans since statistics were first collected about them in 2000, reporting from the 2010 census, made public in recent days, shows that the nation’s mixed-race population is growing far more quickly than many demographers had estimated, particularly in the South and parts of the Midwest. That conclusion is based on the bureau’s analysis of 42 states; the data from the remaining eight states will be released this week.

In North Carolina, the mixed-race population doubled. In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent, and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee. In Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, the multiracial population increased by about 70 percent.

“Anything over 50 percent is impressive,” said William H. Frey, a sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution. “The fact that even states like Mississippi were able to see a large explosion of residents identifying as both black and white tells us something that people would not have predicted 10 or 20 years ago.”

Census officials were expecting a national multiracial growth rate of about 35 percent since 2000, when seven million people — 2.4 percent of the population — chose more than one race. Officials have not yet announced a national growth rate, but it seems sure to be closer to 50 percent.

The contour and the shade of the change are not uniform. In states like California, Hawaii and Oklahoma, where people of mixed race already made up a significant percentage of the total, the increases were smaller than in places like Mississippi, where there were far fewer mixed-race people to start with. In Hawaii, for instance — where the multiracial group accounts for 23 percent of the population, highest of any state — the growth since 2000 was 23.6 percent.

Also, in Hawaii, the predominant mix is Asian and white and native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, while in Oklahoma, it is American Indian and white. In Mississippi, the most common mix is black and white — historically and today the two groups least likely to intermarry, sociologists say, because of the enduring social and economic distance between them. (It was also against the law until 1967.)

Mississippi led the nation in the growth of mixed marriages for most of the last decade, according to Mr. Frey’s analysis of the American Community Survey. Still, multiracial people are a tiny percentage of the state’s population: 34,000, about 1.1 percent. And many here complain of enduring racial inequities.

There was an uproar last year over comments by Gov. Haley Barbour suggesting that the civil rights era in Mississippi, with its sometimes fatal strife, was not that bad. And some are rankled that the state flag still contains a miniature version of the Confederate battle standard.

Nonetheless, many here also see progress, something akin to “a door opening,” in the words of one resident.

“Racial attitudes are changing,” said Marvin King, a professor of political science at the University of Mississippi who is black, married to a white woman, and the father of a 2-year-old biracial daughter. “Day in, day out, there is certainly not the hostility there was years ago, and I think you see that in that there are more interracial relationships, and people don’t fear those relationships. They don’t have to hide those relationships anymore.”

Mr. Norwood and his wife, Patty Norwood, agreed. “It’s been really smooth here,” said Mr. Norwood, 48, a Hattiesburg resident for 11 years and a men’s basketball coach at William Carey University. He had been most recently coaching at a college in the culturally diverse area of Cajun Louisiana. “I think some people who may not have been comfortable with this in the past have no choice now. I mean, people always told me, the farther south you go, the more racism you’ll feel. But that has not been true.”

Mrs. Norwood, 39, a photographer who is Thai and Chinese on her mother’s side and white on her father’s, added: “I think if people see that you are genuine and in love, and that you are comfortable with yourselves, they are put at ease.”

And unlike in many states, Mississippi’s population has not grown much over the last decade, suggesting to researchers that any change in culture is happening not primarily as a result of newcomers. (Mississippi’s population grew by 3.8 percent since 2000. In contrast, North Carolina’s grew 18.46 percent.)

“North Carolina grew rapidly with Hispanics and blacks and people coming in from out of state and changing things,” Mr. Frey said. “In Mississippi, I think it’s changed from within.”

Changing Identities

The share of the multiracial population under the age of 18 in Mississippi is higher than its share of youth in the general population, suggesting that much of the growth in the mixed-race group can be explained by recent births. But in Mississippi and in other states, some growth may also be a result of older Americans who once identified themselves as black or some other single race expanding the way they think about their identity.

“The reality is that there has been a long history of black and white relationships — they just weren’t public,” said Prof. Matthew Snipp, a demographer in the sociology department at Stanford University. Speaking about the mixed-race offspring of some of those relationships, he added: “People have had an entire decade to think about this since it was first a choice in 2000. Some of these figures are not so much changes as corrections. In a sense, they’re rendering a more accurate portrait of their racial heritage that in the past would have been suppressed.”

Experts say there are some elements, like military service or time spent on a college campus, that lay the groundwork for interracial relationships. With the Camp Shelby military base on its southern side and the University of Southern Mississippi as an anchor, perhaps it is not a surprise that Hattiesburg, a city of about 50,000 residents, and its surrounding counties would show rapid mixed-race growth.

They are also part of Mississippi’s coastal culture, which has historically been more liberal and outward looking — given the port towns — than the rest of the state. (Harrison County, south of Hattiesburg and home to the Gulf Coast cities of Gulfport and Biloxi, has the highest share of mixed-race residents in the state, according to the 2010 census.)

Sonia Cherail Peeples, who is black, met her husband, Michael Peeples, who is white, in the science building at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2003, when they were both students. Friendship ensued, then a crush. “I never dated a black girl before,” Mr. Peeples confided. His family was “old Mississippi,” living mostly around Jackson. At one time, they ran a luggage company.

Sonia Peeples’s ancestors were longtime Mississippians, too, but they were sharecropping cotton.

The differences in the past did not matter in the present, they both agreed.

“I really never thought twice about it,” Mrs. Peeples, 29, said of dating Michael, 30. “Everyone was open to it and I thought: ‘He has potential. I could marry this guy!’ ”

And she did. Now they have two boys: Riley, 3, and Gannon, 5, who Mrs. Peeples likes to say are “black, white and just right!”

“It’s a generational thing,” Mr. Peeples added, noting that his mother has been hot and cold about the relationship over the years, accepting his new family, then sometimes pulling away for a while, only to return, drawn by her grandsons. “I think many older people are set in their ways, but 40 years old or younger, you’ll never get the sense that something’s wrong,” he said.

After college, the couple moved to Denver, but eventually decided to return to Hattiesburg, where Mr. Peeples works at a local dairy.

“I told the Realtor, ‘Don’t put us in a predominantly white or black neighborhood,’ ” Mrs. Peeples recalled. “And sure enough, we have a biracial kid next door.”

According to the census, multiracial people are more likely to live in neighborhoods that have a broad mix of races with a higher share of whites than those who identify as black alone. This suggests they enjoy higher socioeconomic status, Mr. Frey, the demographer, said.

Lingering Tensions

Still, for the Peeples family, there have been some testy moments. There was the time when another parent at Gannon’s school asked if his terrible allergies had something to do with “race mixing.” And there was the hospital worker who treated Mrs. Peeples as though she was trying to snatch a white baby when she took Riley, who had blond curls, out of his crib in the nursery. “This is my baby! He just looks like his dad,” Mrs. Peeples, who has deep brown skin, remembered scolding the woman.

But both Sonia and Michael Peeples are mindful that those few incidents are insignificant in comparison to what previous generations endured.

“I would not have wanted to live in my parents’ or grandparents’ time,” said Mrs. Peeples, a full-time homemaker. “We’re teaching our kids all of it, all their history. My 5-year-old asks, ‘People who looked like you, why did they treat them so bad?’ It’s hard to explain to a biracial child in 2011. In a perfect world, race wouldn’t matter, but that day’s a while off.”

The Norwoods have also experienced minor tensions. A waitress at a restaurant might abruptly decide that she cannot serve their table. Even when they are locked arm in arm, someone might ask incredulously, “Are you together?” Clerks at the supermarket want to ring up their groceries separately.

But there is one place where they know that old thinking patterns are being challenged: at their church.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Sunday morning church service the most segregated hour in America, but one would not know that at Grace Temple Ministries, the neighborhood church where the Norwoods worship and socialize with other mixed-race families. The pastor is white and the assistant pastor is black, and the creative arts pastor is Latino. During a recent sermon, the congregation’s guiding ethos on social issues was clear: “Let us not be guilty of thinking as the culture and society decides,” said the pastor, Dwayne Higgason.

Unlike the Peepleses, Jeffrey and Patty Norwood did not seek a diverse neighborhood, but found themselves in one anyway. In 2001, they bought the first home built on a developing street before any neighbors had even purchased lots. As houses sprang up, their neighbors turned out to be black families, white families and mixes of the two.

“Between our church and the neighborhood, this is the most diverse place I’ve been,” said Mr. Norwood, a native of Tupelo, Miss. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.”

Growing up in Victoria, Tex., Mrs. Norwood said she was never quite sure what race to mark on forms, and she hardly ever saw people like herself

“I usually went with Asian because I could only check one box,” Mrs. Norwood said. “Our daughter’s life will not be like that. She knows what she is and she’s exposed to a little bit of everything. The times have certainly changed.”

Interracial romance writer gains fans

Nelson makes race a ‘secondary concern’

Suburban mom Latrivia S. Nelson spends time in a fictional place where the Russian Mafia has a Memphis branch.

Nelson’s world has given her a growing fan base as a romance novel writer. She says she has sold more than 7,000 copies of her latest book, “Dmitry’s Closet,” released in early 2010.

Nelson’s novels are books of interracial suspense and romance, involving black women and white men. They’re books she wrote when she couldn’t find interracial romance novels that made race a secondary concern.

“All the interracial romance novels were so based on race,” she said. “Once they got past that one (character) was black and the other was white, it was over.”

While a student at LeMoyne-Owen College, Nelson wrote stories for her friends.

After a short, unsuccessful marriage to her college sweetheart, Nelson met her husband, Adam Nelson, a retired U.S. Marine. The Cordova couple have two children, Jordan, 7, from her first marriage, and Tierra, 4.

The Nelsons married in 2005, and he encouraged her to write. Her first novel, the self-published “Ivy’s Twisted Vine,” came out in 2008.

Other books followed and while he was in Iraq, Adam Nelson’s fellow Marines were curious.

“They said, ‘Is this really about you and her?’ I said, ‘No, it’s not. We don’t have any Russian Mafia friends,'” he said laughing.

Nelson said she tried and failed to find an agent for her first novel. “It just wasn’t happening for me,” she said.

So she started RiverHouse Publishing, defined on its website as a place for “male and female, Caucasian and African-American, affluent and starving writers.”

“Our diversity allows us to explore new frontiers in writing and focus on cutting-edge situational relationships that speak to the inner desires of many fiction readers,” the RiverHouse description says.

“I wanted to be able to give people a voice to be able to get what they feel is important to them out there,” she said.

La-Tessa Montgomery, vice president of the River City Romance Writers Association, knows Nelson’s frustrations.

A publisher Montgomery met with liked the storyline in her interracial romance novel, but passed on the book because she didn’t know how to sell it.

“Meaning she didn’t know how to sell a book by an African-American or with African-American characters,” Montgomery said. “And to further segment that, she didn’t know how to sell a book with an African-American heroine and a Caucasian (male) lead.”

Interracial contemporary romance is a sub-genre in the romance novel world, and big publishers shy away from sub-genres, said Debra Dixon, head of publisher Belle Books, dedicated to “Southern Fried Fiction,” and a co-founder of River City Romance Writers.

Publishers look for broad markets, limiting the opportunities for the “cowboy interracial Christmas time-travel romance,” she joked. But those books still will have fans.

“We have companies that publish black romance, Latino romance, Asian romance,” said Dixon. “So there’s something out there for everybody. You need to find a publisher who can sell that.”

— Linda A. Moore: 529-2702

© 2010 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

The Ugly Girlfriend by Latrivia S. Nelson is the first book in the Lonely Heart Series:

December has been a busy month.  We released The Ugly Girlfriend, we’re working on releasing The Chronicles of Young Dmitry Medlov: Volume 2, and we are in preparation for dropping Anatoly Medlov: Complete Reign in January.

Many readers have asked, so I wanted to take a minute and share with you exactly what The Ugly Girlfriend is:

LaToya Jenkins is the quintessential woman: smart, successful, grounded and determined.  She only has one problem socially – she’s overweight.  As the “big one” of her girlfriends, she often faces rejection from the men of their social circle because of her size and/or her dark skin.  And due to a painful past relationship, she gives up on love completely  until, she takes on Mitchell “Mitch” O’Keefe as a new client. 

The Irish born architect needs a professional cleaning service to help him literrally clean up his life after a nasty divorce, but he  winds up finding a true friend in LaToya, the owner of It’s An Honor Cleaning Service.   

While LaToya is handicapped emotionally by her baggage, Mitch thinks she’s the strongest woman he’s ever seen and breath of fresh air in his hectic life.  His only goal is to prove to her that his interest in her is more than lust sparked by curiosity.  

Read the story of two beautiful people in totally opposite ways who help each other see that beauty is not skin deep but soul deep in the first book of Latrivia S. Nelson’s Lonely Heart Series, The Ugly Girlfriend. 

Why Did I Write The Ugly Girlfriend?

So many people write to me and ask me to write something that is very realistic.  They love the Medlov Series because it is fantasy, but they wanted something that speaks to the relationships that happen for two normal people in day-to-day life. 

The Lonely Heart Series is a collection of books that will be released this year from me to you with the purpose of doing just that.  As you read the stories, you’ll be able to see yourself, see someone you know and definitely identify with their romance. 

Also, I look at all the beautiful women that I know and many of them share with me that they consider themselves the ugly one.  I can’t even understand how they can say this about themselves.  They are all talented, beautiful, funny and caring.  Yet, people look on the outside and make these horrid judgments about them.  I wanted each of my friends to know and women out there who read my books that beauty truly comes from within and the right man can see that in you and respect you.  As a matter of fact, I believe he’ll want to love you, because you love yourself. 

You can purchase the PDF for $3 on www.latrivianelson.info.  I hope that you’ll check it out.  And I hope that you enjoy it.

New Medlov Crime Family Story Available Now on www.latrivianelson.info!!!

I’ve been promising this book for a few weeks now, but it’s finally live. Ladies and gentlemen, you may now purchase the 65-page short story that begins Dmitry Medlov’s journey to the top on my new website (www.latrivianelson.info). I hope that you enjoy the new site. It has been designed to keep you more in touch with all the wonderful things that we have been working on for your pleasure. Plus, I think it’s sort of sexy. Here’s my thought on all of this. I enjoy writing for you guys because you enjoy reading my work. So, as long as I can figure out a way to send you an amazing story, I will do my best to do just that!

What is the Volume 1 about?

Readers, who have already made themselves familiar with The Medlov Crime Family Series, will experience young Dmitry Medlov before his rise to the top. Released from prison at the age of 18, Dmitry Medlov has 24 hours to assassinate a Ukrainian drug lord and get both he and his brother on a plane to London. After being imprisoned for three years, however, many things have changed. Ivan isn’t a little boy anymore and he’s showing signs of being a sociopath. His ex-girlfriend is engaged and he’s a foot taller. Purchase this 65-page short story designed to begin to answer many questions about American’s favorite Russian crime boss. Only $3. PDF format. Emailed within 5-minutes right to your email.

Log on today!  www.latrivianelson.info

Readers Have Posted My Book on Free Forums – Not Happy

Let me vent for a while, ladies, if you don’t mind.  I spent many months, weeks, days, hours on my work.  So, it pains me to no end when I see that readers purchase my book and then post it on illegal forums, even against 17 U.S.C. § 512 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  Why a person would want to first pirate another person’s personal work, then pawn if off for free.  Needless to say, I’ve already contacted the FBI and my lawyers.  This upsets me very much and provides to me the understanding of that double-edged sword of technology.  While I have loved the Kindle, Nook and PDF capabilities, I’m not sure that it’s worth being the victim of other people’s inconsiderate and costly behavior. 

I just finished a great article on the CNN site about this kind of horrid effects of e-book piracy.  I’m inclined to agree.  If you’d like to read it, check it out. http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/01/01/ebook.piracy/index.html

What are your thoughts? Have any of you ever experienced this with your own work or have you ever pirated? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Latrivia

Drop Date Pushed Back to July 15th Due to Printer

It’s a sad state of affairs for me ladies and gentlemen.  The book is complete, but the hard copy format will not be ready until July 15th.  Please world, do not be angry with me.  I’m working around the clock to provide some benefits in lieu of this horrid blunder.  Last time, the drop date was off by a month and half.  So, I’m happy to report that it’s just ten days later.  For many, it’s ten days too long.  So, I’m offering this:

However, you can still pre-order on my site (www.latrivianelson.com) starting tonight or on www.dmitrysroyalflush.com

Pre-order and you will receive a free PDF copy of the book for you to read until your book arrives.  I made the announcement tonight and have received great feedback from the readers.  Thanks so much for you all who have understood.  And I’m so blessed to have so many supporters. 

The good news is that the book will still be available on Kindle on the 5th!  You can also purchase the PDF format without the hard copy for $5 on www.dmitrysroyalflush.com.  So, if you don’t have a Kindle, like to read at work or home or prefer to laptop or desktop to pick up books, you won’t miss a beat.  For my hardcopy readers, the printer says that it could very well be back next week, but they’ve given me that date to be safe.  So, I’ll keep you updated. 

For all of those who receive the PDF, please send me your thoughts through the blog, facebook and email to let me know what you think (Latrivia@LatriviaNelson.com). 

And please Pray for me that I don’t jump off a cliffJ

Xoxo and all that jazz,

Latrivia

Introducing the cover to my newest book – Dmitry’s Royal Flush: Rise of the Queen

Let me be the first to say how proud I am of Kandace Tuggle,  our exclusive designer at RiverHouse Publishing, LLC for her fabulous work on the new cover for the much anticipated Dmitry’s Royal Flush: Rise of the Queen book from the Medlov Crime Family Series.  We had a great conference call with the girls a few days back, where I told them that this would be coming.  Now, here it is as promised.

For me, when I see the cover, I know that the entire book is almost complete.  I always save the cover until the end to make sure that it really encompasses what the story is all about – mostly because I tend to deviate.

So, ladies, here it is.  We also have the site (www.dmitrysroyalflush.com)  , Twitter (HisRoyalFlush) and very soon Facebook. I hope  that you all are having a great day.  And don’t forget the drop date of July 5th.  More information will be coming out in the next few days.

Talk to you soon.

Xoxo and all that jazz,

Latrivia S. Nelson

Synopsis:

For Dmitry and Royal Medlov, money doesn’t equal happiness.  Forced to leave Memphis, TN and flee to Prague after a brutal mafia war, the couple nestled into the countryside to raise their daughter, Anya, and lead a safe, quiet life.   But when Dmitry’s son, Anatoly, shows up with an offer he can’t refuse, Dmitry is forced to go back to the life he left as boss of the most feared criminal organization in world.  Consequently, the deal could not only destroy the Medlov Crime Family but also Dmitry and Royal.     

 Royal hasn’t been the same since she was attacked three years ago.  Where she used to be a sweet, innocent girl, she’s now a jaded, bitter woman, who can’t be coddled by riches and luxury.  However, a reality check is in store for the pre-Madonna when Anya’s new teacher shows up with her sights set on stealing Dmitry, and Ivan’s old ally shows up with sights on killing him.  Can Royal save them all?  Will she?

With a family in such turmoil, the only way to survive is to stick together.  Read the gripping tale of a marriage strong enough to stand the test of time as Dmitry realizes that he has the best cards in the house as long as has a Royal Flush.