Karyn Parsons,who played Hillary Banks on syndicated television show the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, says that it is hard being biracial in America. In addition,the actress turned producer/writer says that it is harder raising bi-racial kids. Karyn says that her daughter Lana,4, came out looking like the “whitest white child with blonde hair and blue eyes” and her son Nico,11 months, came out looking “browner than [she is]”. Read Karyn’s interview with Essence.com below:
Essence.com: Your mother is Black and your father White. What’s been your biggest challenge being biracial in America?
K.P.: Well, it’s hard. When I saw Barack’s speech on race, I cried and I felt like, there’s the speech I’ve been wanting to write. I’ve been thinking about writing about race for a long time. It’s very interesting how we feel about each other in terms of race. When I’m around Black or White people, I’m always in the middle. Especially when I am around Black people; they will really tell how they feel about White people regardless of the fact that I’m also White and have White relatives. It’s very interesting and can be really hard.
Essence.com: It’s definitely an issue our society still faces.
K.P.: Exactly. And I’m married to a White man, and then my daughter came out looking like the whitest White child with blonde hair and blue eyes. And I’m like, Omigosh, now what am I going to do? She has my mom’s features and is lighter than my husband. And my boy is browner than I am. Brown eyes and really tan. The race thing is something we continue to deal with and just have to learn to love ourselves and others.
In 2005,Karyn and her husband wanted to “instill a sense of culture and heritage to their daughter” and so they started an award-winning collection of African-American children’s DVD’s.
Essence.com: Congrats to you on the success of your award-winning collection of African-American children’s DVDs, which aired on HBO. How did you get into writing for children?
Karyn Parsons: While I was on Fresh Prince, my mother, who was head of book resources at a college library, told me the incredible story of Henry ‘Box’ Brown, a slave who mailed himself in a small box from Virginia to Pennsylvania to find freedom. Talk about determination! That was such an obvious story to tell kids and it stayed with me. A few years later, I talked to my husband about it. He was really fascinated with it as well and pushed me to just do it, and bring the story to life.
Essence.com: Well, we are glad you did. That is an eye-opening story that people need to know.
K.P.: And they really have been receptive. I started my company Sweet Blackberry in 2004 and The Journey of Henry ‘Box’ Brown was our first DVD. It was an easy way to introduce slavery to young kids. It can be difficult for parents and teachers to explain that part of our history. It was an interesting experience and kept me thinking, Is that too much? Does the whip crack in this scene? We all love to hear a good story, and Alfre Woodard was amazing as the narrator. It aired on HBO in February for Black History Month. Our second story was Garret’s Gift, about a teenage Garret A. Morgan, who invented the traffic light, and Queen Latifah narrated for us, which was great.