Black Sister, White Sister


I recently devoured Caucasia by Danzy Senna and all of its biracial glory. As best reviewed in Soul Mates by Elizabeth Schmidt (no reference to a previous post entitled Sole Mates and Soul Mates), the work is about the maturation of mulatto Birdie Lee and her ability to identify with herself and within familial relationships.

The book follows the young woman throughout childhood and into adolescence and with each turn of the page I see myself in her experiences. Her rare, rebellious, red-headed white mother is the dead on description of my birth mother. Her black father’s lifelong search for his personal connectedness is symbolic of my birth father. However, I am most intrigued by her relationship with her sister.

I am infatuated with the bond between sisters, a union of which I do not quite understand. It was not until three years ago that I even learned that I had a sister, a few sisters (but for the sake of this post I will focus on two). While Birdie Lee had a sister who was both black and white, I have a sister who is black and one who is white.

I smiled at the thought of writing that last sentence.

Let me tell you a bit about my sisters. One is a wife and super mom, in every sense of the phrase, and if ever a ‘S’ was tattooed on someone’s chest-it was hers. She is the full-time, stay home mother of four beautiful little people under six! She plants things that she actually cooks (!) and does yard work, hikes, and camps. She is dedicated to the lives of her children, but recognizes that she is a woman outside of being a mom. My sister is full of creative energy and intellectual conversation and she is the absolute life of the party.

The other has taken the professional track, finishing undergrad and graduate school and moving up the corporate ladder at her job. She is a member of a sorority and is a dancer (in a troop not a club). She is a huge supporter of the arts and enjoys frequent cultural travels. She is four months shy of her first anniversary and her only child walks on all fours and is of the canine persuasion. She has a plethora of food allergies and her husband teases that she should have come with a manual.

I fall somewhere between my sisters. I am juggling familial and professional careers. I am creative, a self-prescribed intellectual and often called on to start a party. I am currently in graduate school and I love all things artistically stimulating. I also am the owner of a Schnoodle (same breed as Grady, my neph-dog). With one sister I share a mother; with the other I share a father. We all share the inability to shop for brassieres in cutesy stores for the less blessed like Victoria’s Secret.

It’s been three years and while my relationship with my sisters isn’t strange (as in the Braxtons), they aren’t strong (as in the Mowrys) either. We’re working on building them and I’m working on my understanding of all their intricacies. If Birdie Lee fights through life and strife as a young, teenage woman to find her sister and chooses to live with her, surely the bond is worth building.

Just before posting, I had a thought…I wonder if you made any racial recognition to my sisters as they were described.  I realized I didn’t give any identification to them and I guess that is because the definitions could apply to either of them as easily as neither of them and quite honestly it doesn’t matter if the mom is black or the professional is white. What did you think?

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9 thoughts on “Black Sister, White Sister

  1. Hello Palmer! I truly enjoyed reading this article, thank you for sharing and being so open. My name is Tamara, aka Shawn. We met at Leah’s wedding, I am Janice’s (Lonnie, Jazzy, and Miah’s mom) niece. We took a couple of silly pics together! I want to say that it was very nice to meet you. I pray you and your babies,(big boys)are blessed. Thanks for doing what you are doing, you are saying what so many people have on their hearts but maybe are having a hard time finding those who understand, or just “get it”!

    Take care

    • Shawn, I still have those black and white photos from the photo booth! Good times. Even with the excitement of meeting so many new family members, I remember you well. Thank you for reading and supporting my voice.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have a few sisters, 7 to be exact. All of whom I knew about, most of whom I had lived with for some amount of time, some are so young I was well into High School by the time they arrived. Each relationship is very different and that’s ok. It is likely due to the diversity of age and experiences. While we are all in different states, living our different lives, I think we take comfort in knowing that there is another out there who shares this bond of sisterhood.

    Also, interesting about the racial identity question for each of your sisters. As I read, I thought to myself, I wonder if readers will make judgements on which sister is which. That, I guess is my bias to people stereotyping. 🙂

    • LaNeia, do you have any brothers to add to the 7 sisters? I think when you live in a state of mixed race, you see the issue of race more clearly or obsessively-hey, it is what it is.

  3. you are so bless to have two wonderful sisters. There is a bond between sisters that can not me described. Enjoy every moment you can with them. Enjoyed your article

  4. This was absolutely beautiful. I consider it a marvelous Mother’s Day present. Thank you my lovely, gracious, talented daughter.

  5. Once I started reading this, I did not think about identification of either sister, whether they were black or white until I got to the end. They seem to be living a very positive and interesting life. It was if I was reading a very good book and not blog. Very well written.

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