May 21, 2017 by
About 100,000 black GIs were stationed in the UK during the war. Inevitably there were love affairs, but US laws usually prevented black servicemen from marrying. So what happened to the children they fathered? Fiona Clampin met two such children in Dorset, now in their seventies, who have not given up hope of tracing their fathers. A bottle of champagne has sat on a shelf in Carole Travers's wardrobe for the past 20 years. Wedged between boxes and covered with clothes, it'll be opened only when Carole finds her father. "There's an outside chance he might still be alive," she reflects. "I've got so many bits of information, but to know the real truth would mean the world to me - to know that I did belong to somebody." The possibility of Carole tracking down her father becomes more and more remote by the day. Born towards the end of World War Two, Carole, now 72, was the result of a relationship between her white mother and a married African-American or mixed-race soldier stationed in Poole, in Dorset. Whereas some "brown babies" (as the children of black GIs were known in the press) were put up for adoption, Carole's mother, Eleanor Reid, decided to keep her child. The only problem was, she was already married, with a daughter, to a Scot with pale skin and red hair. "I had black hair and dark skin," says Carole. "Something obviously wasn't right." Carole Travers with a friend The difference between Carole and her half-siblings only dawned on the young girl at the age of six, when she overheard her parents having an argument. "Does she know? Well, it's about time she did," said her stepfather, in Carole's retelling of the story. She remembers how her mother sat her down at the kitchen table and told Carole the truth about her background. "I was chuffed I was different," she says. "I used to tell my friends, 'My dad's an America,' without really knowing what that meant." In 1950s Dorset there were very few mixed-race or black children, and having one out of wedlock carried a huge stigma. Although Carole doesn't remember any specific racist remarks, she recalls the stares. Parents would shush their children when she and her family got on the bus. Carole says her "blackness" was considered cute when she was a child, but as she grew up she became more aware of her difference. "I remember once being in a club and there was a comedian who started making jokes about black people. I'm stood there and I'm thinking: 'Everyone's looking at me,'" she says. "I always felt inferior. As a teenager, I would stand back, I thought that nobody would ever want to know me because of my colour. "I was going out with one boy, and his mother found out about me. She put a stop to it because she remarked that if we had kids, they would be 'coloured'." GIs at work in Weymouth harbour Seventy-two-year-old John Stockley, another child of an African-American GI stationed further down the Dorset coast in Weymouth, does remember the racial abuse in striking detail. John was called names to such an extent that at the age of seven he decided he would try to turn his skin pale to be like his classmates. "I worked out that if I drank milk of magnesia [a laxative] and ate chalk I would make myself go white," he chuckles. "I think I drank over half the bottle! You can imagine the effect. It wasn't good and it tasted disgusting." In one playground incident a boy insulted him with the N-word and called him "dirty", but when John thrashed him he found himself summoned to the school office. "It was a winter's day in the early 1950s," John explains. "I was playing football and I collided with another guy. By this time I was quite fiery, I wouldn't take it, and a blow was struck. I made his nose bleed. To this day I can see the blood on the snow. "My mother lived less than 100 yards from the school, and she was summoned to the office with me. I remember her shaking next to me, holding my hand. The secretary told her what had happened and he said to my mother: 'You have to remember, Mrs Stockley, these people cannot be educated.' That puts my hackles up now." Shocking though the racism seems to us today, it was arguably family life which had a more pernicious effect on these mixed-race children. "Your mum made a mistake," one of his aunts once told John Stockley. "The 'mistake' is me," he says. John's description of his childhood spent living with his grandparents in a village behind Chesil Beach sounds idyllic. But that's to ignore the reason why he went there in the first place. Determined to punish his wife for her double transgression, John's stepfather did not allow him to live in the family home except from Monday to Friday during school term. Even then, John was not permitted to enter the house by the front door. At weekends he was packed off to his maternal grandparents, who provided him with the stable and loving family life he craved - and a refuge from his stepfather. "Of course, coming back from the war and finding his wife with a black child must have been a great shock," John acknowledges. "And they never had any children together. But there was no love at all for him from me, because of what he did to my mother. She was effectively kept in a position of restraint, and I'd see her go through depression because she wanted to do things she couldn't." John says his stepfather - a gambler and philanderer - exercised control over his mother despite the fact that she ran a successful guesthouse. He decided who John's mother could or could not be friends with, John says. "And he didn't like us to be too close. If some music came on the radio when he wasn't there, I would dance with her because she loved to jitterbug. But not when he was around. We were told to stop." Carole Travers's stepfather began divorce proceedings when he found out what his wife had done in his absence. However, when it appeared that he wouldn't get custody of their daughter (Carole's half-sister), he returned to the family home and Carole took his surname. He appeared to accept Carole on the surface, but towards the end of his life he telephoned her and dropped a bombshell. He wouldn't be leaving her anything in his will, he told her, "because you're nothing to do with me". "The money didn't matter," says Carole. "But what he said really hurt me. I told him, 'You're my dad, you've always been my dad, and you're the only dad I've ever known'." Married and with children of her own by this time, Carole started trying to trace her biological father, based on the scraps of information her mother had given her in the weeks before she died. "It just didn't occur to me to ask questions when I was younger," she says, the tone of regret in her voice clear. "My stepfather would always bring me up in any argument with my mother, referring to me as 'your bastard', and I learned not to rock the boat. I just got on with my life." Deborah Prior, front row, in the light dress, lived in Holnicote House in Somerset along with other mixed-race children - the photograph was used to attract potential adoptive parents Not all GI babies were able to stay with their mothers. Dr Deborah Prior was born in 1945, to a widow in Somerset and a black American serviceman. Her mother was persuaded to give her up, and for five years Deborah lived in Holnicote House, a special home for mixed-race children. Deborah spoke to Woman's Hour along with Prof Lucy Bland, who is researching this under-reported chapter of social history. Like Carole, John Stockley wanted to protect his mother by keeping quiet. "I could see it was going to upset her if I asked too many questions, and upset her was the last thing I was going to do," he says. He would take his chance occasionally, although his mother would always evade his enquiries. But John remembers with characteristic clarity the last time he brought up the subject of his real father. "I remember her saying to me in the course of a minor argument between us: 'You don't know what I've been through because of you.' "And I said to her: 'You don't know what I've been through because of you!' She went pale, and realised what she'd said and how she'd put her foot in it. But we never went any further than that. She just looked at me in a sad sort of way, and I said, 'Have I ever done anything to make you ashamed of me?' And she said no. And that was the last we ever spoke about it." It was turning 70 that prompted John to start looking for information about his father, whereas Carole has spent almost half her life searching for a man she knows only as "Burt". Neither of them has many facts to go on - Carole believes her stepfather destroyed the only photos and letters that could have helped her identify Burt. But while their searches may come to nothing, they both take solace from the fact that their mothers loved them against all the odds, and that they were born of loving relationships, not one-night stands. "My mother told me my father was the only man she ever really loved," says Carole. "And I've had Mum's friends say to me since her death: 'Don't ever feel ashamed of your background, because you were born out of love and your mum wanted you.' She knew he was going back to America and she wanted something of him, something to hold on to." source

May 15, 2017 by
A group of white nationalists carried torches Saturday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, while protesting the planned removal of Confederate statues in the city — which has provoked anger and frustration from politicians and activists. The torch wielders — reported to be several dozen by local paper The Daily Progress — were reacting to a Nov. 28 City Council vote to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Charlottesville's Lee Park, the public space where the protest took place Saturday. A court injunction has halted the removal of the statue for six months, but that didn't stop the protesters, led by avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, from reportedly yelling chants like "We will not be replaced," "Russia is our friend" and "Blood and soil" at the site of the statue. Mike Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, expressed his disgust with Saturday's protest in an interview with ABC News. "I think it's horrific," he said of the protests. "We're a city that proudly values our diversity." Signer noted that the demonstration coincided with the park's Festival of Cultures event, which was created to celebrate the "cultural and linguistic diversity" of the community. It isn't clear whether the timing was deliberate, he said. "It's always a balance about how much oxygen you want to give these 'alt-right' bigots," he said, referring to questions about how to respond to the actions of Spencer and his followers. "It's important to say that these were just tiki torches. Based upon what I'm seeing online, the people involved in this have a juvenile mentality and are beneath our contempt." Signer issued a statement about the protests to The Daily Progress saying the protest was "either profoundly ignorant or designed to instill fear in our minority community." ABC News on Sunday reached out for comment to the Spencer-run National Policy Institute, a think tank focused on white supremacist issues but did not receive a response.     Signer said that on Saturday there was an altercation between protesters and counterprotesters and that he expects the police to perform "due diligence" in determining whether evidence exists that a federal hate crime took place, given the racially tinged atmosphere surrounding the incident. The Charlottesville Police Department released a statement Sunday saying that officers answered a call about suspicious activity in Lee Park and that the first officer on the scene found "100 to 150 people in the park, many of whom were carrying tiki-style torches." As the officer approached the group, he saw several members of the group arguing with a man, the police statement said. People in the group were chanting, and the man was yelling at them "to leave my town," police said. The officer ordered everyone to clear the park and called for additional units. As other officers arrived, everyone began to leave the park without incident, and there were no assaults, injuries or damage to the park reported, the police statement said. "Extra patrol was conducted for the remainder of the evening, with no additional incidents being reported or observed," the statement said. Signer on Sunday sparred with some of Spencer's supporters on Twitter, whom he called "anonymous trolls." He endured anti-Semitic remarks on the social media platform. "I'm pretty thick-skinned," the mayor said, "but this is the first time I've encountered something like this." John Edwin Mason, a history teacher at the University of Virginia who lives within walking distance of the park, told ABC News that he views the protest as an attempt by newer "American fascists" like Spencer to sync up with more traditional racist groups like the KKK on the issue of preserving Confederate history. "Richard Spencer doesn't give a damn about Robert E. Lee," Mason said. "He sees an opportunity here." Removing Confederate monuments is part of a trend that gained momentum after a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, when avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans at a Bible-study session. In the aftermath of the massacre, calls came from both Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina to take down a Confederate battle flag that flew on statehouse grounds in Charleston. Mason served as a vice chairman on a blue ribbon commission that has pushed to remove the statues. He is African-American but doesn't view the protests as a targeting black people in Charlottesville. He said that the black community in Charlottesville is "relatively small" and that he feels the protesters were responding to the agenda of "white liberals and leftists" who pushed to emphasize diversity in the community. Signer proclaimed the city a "capital of resistance" in January, after the inauguration of Donald Trump, and vowed at an event held in downtown Charlottesville to provide assistance to immigrants who need visa help. Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier who died in combat in Iraq and who gave a widely discussed speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, was among the residents who spoke at the mayor's event. "Having fire at night conjures images of the KKK, but it also stirs up images of Nazis," Mason said — referring to images of Nazi storm troopers marching with torches before and during World War II. He added that he attends a primarily African-American American church in the city and that he spoke to neighbors who were neither surprised nor scared by the demonstration in Lee Park the night before. "Nobody here is intimidated by these jokers," Mason said with a chuckle. source

May 14, 2017 by
Taylor Armbrester, 10, says he has been coping with racial taunting from fellow fifth-graders since he transferred to the mostly white Chelsea Park Elementary School in the fall. He says he has been punched, kicked, called "black boy" and "retarded," and a white classmate told him the school was better before he started attending. On Tuesday during lunch, he said one of his classmates came up to him and recited a "Roses are Red" poem he made up to emphasize that Taylor was black: "Roses are red, violets are blue, I am white, you should be too. Roses are red, violets are blue, I am white, why aren't you? Roses are red, violets are blue, God made me pretty, what happened to you?" Taylor Armbrester, 10, says he has been dealing with racial taunting and bullying from fellow fifth-graders during the 2016-2017 school year. Taylor said the boy had previously started a physical altercation with him that led to a meeting with the guidance counselor, and Taylor thought they were now friends. "He said, 'Don't take it offensively,'" Taylor said. "I know he was just playing a joke. I said, 'I hope you know God doesn't like that.'" Another boy accused him of stealing a fidget spinner, a popular toy with kids, and punched him in the face after a physical education class, he said. "He lost it out of his book bag," Taylor said. "They think they can just do it to me," he said. "They think I'm dumb or something. They kept on doing it to me." Also on Tuesday, he was shooting baskets when a girl he considers his friend asked if she could shoot, but instead she threw the ball at him. It broke one of his fingers. His mother took him to the emergency room, she said. "He seems to be an easy target," said his mother, Shaneka Phillips, who works as child sponsorship coordinator for MakeWay Partners, a Shelby County ministry that runs orphanages in Sudan. 'Isolated case' A guidance counselor has met with students who admitted they had been mean to Taylor, she said. Assistant Principal Mary Anderson and a guidance counselor met with Taylor and his mother on Friday. Anderson said she couldn't discuss individual students for privacy reasons, but the school does have a code of conduct for addressing issues such as bullying. There is not a problem with racial bullying at the school, she said. "This would be an isolated case," she said. "I have not had to deal with that." The school is welcoming of diversity, she said. "We have children of all races," she said. Chelsea is the fastest-growing suburb in Shelby County. Out of 883 students at Chelsea Park Elementary School, from kindergarten through fifth grade, there are 88 black students, about 10 percent. There are 23 Asian students, 40 Hispanics and one Pacific Islander. The 715 white students make up about 81 percent of the student body, according to the school's Student Summary Count as of May 12. Bullying trends Bullying has always happened in schools across America, but national studies show bullying is not especially prevalent right now and may be declining. Many schools now have codes of conduct that help address the issue. In a 2013 survey, about 20 percent of teenagers report being having been bullied at school. That's down from about 27 percent in 2011. About six percent of teens say that they have experienced physical bullying, such as being pushed or tripped, according to the 2013 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Study. About 13 percent of students report being made fun of, called names, or insulted, according to the report. The Southern Poverty Law Center surveyed educators before and after the 2016 election and says there is anecdotal evidence that bias-related incidents may have increased, a phenomenon the center calls "The Trump Effect" and believes may be related to President Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric about minorities. Bridgett Hill Kennedy, assistant professor of psychology at UAB, says parents and educators can help set a positive tone and discourage bullying by encouraging students to step in when they see others being mistreated. "It's scary sometimes to stand up for what's right," Kennedy said. "Parents should let your kids know, you always stand up for the little guy." Scientific studies show the power of social influence: other students can show bullying is not acceptable, she said. "When one other person in the room was willing to say it's wrong, that changes the tone," Kennedy said.  'Feeling better' Taylor's mother said she's satisfied that the school has addressed the situation with her son being bullied. "I walked away feeling better than I felt all year," Phillips said after the meeting with the assistant principal. "Ms. Anderson has shown proven results." But still, it has been a difficult year watching her son be bullied, she said. "He's a sweet kid," she said. "This is what he's expecting out of life so far." source