Racism Experiment: Cene and Monica


"My father's white and my mother's black. I'm proud to be white and I'm proud to be black, but my mom thinks that I'm not black enough," says Cene, 18. "Every time we argue, she deals the race card. She's all like, 'You're black, Cene. Stop trying to be so white. You need to identify with the black people.' I know I'm black, but that doesn't mean I can't listen to Frank Sinatra.

"My mom thinks I act too white because I like to straighten my hair," Cene explains. Another topic of contention is where Cene wants to continue her education. "There's a certain university that I really want to attend. My mom doesn't want me to go there because there's a lot of white people. I overheard her telling one of her friends that she isn't going to visit me at school because she doesn't want to be around a daughter who thinks she's white. My mom takes it personally because I'm identifying with both equally. I don't think she hears the word both, she hears the word 'white.'"


"I feel like it's a slap in the face when she wants to identify more with the white side of her family than with the black side," says her mother, Monica. "Cene doesn't appreciate being raised by the African-American side of her family. I've worked hard and busted my tail to take care of her, and I've sacrificed a lot. Even though she could pass for white, I just want Cene to be proud of who she is, and to not try to pass for something that she's not."

"My mother has always had an issue with race. I don't know where it came from. Dr. Phil, why does my mom think I'm not black enough?" asks Cene.


Monica is worried that she's sounding like a racist.

"I don't hear you being racist at all. I hear you saying that you want her to have a strong identity and pride in her heritage," Dr. Phil tells Monica. "I don't hear you saying 'anti-white,' just 'embrace this part of who you are.' Am I right?

"That's exactly right," says Monica.


"I've always said you've got to find your authentic self," says Dr. Phil, turning to Cene. "And I get the sense with you that you just don't define that racially. How do you feel about that?"

"I don't define myself based on one particular race," she says. 'I don't want to gravitate toward either one because I know I'm both. I think if you're mixed, then you should be proud of it."


"But who has taken care of her, Dr. Phil? And who has been there from the beginning?" asks Monica.

"Well, her mother," he says. "But I don't think that she loves her mother because of her mother's race. I think she loves her mother because she was attentive and nurturing and loving and protective. You think it's disloyal because she doesn't align herself with your racial identity?"

"Well, it bothers me. For example, we have visited black churches, and I like her to come with me and enjoy the service with me. And it bothers me that she feels uncomfortable when we go," says Monica.

"Well, maybe she should go somewhere she feels comfortable and spiritually fed," suggests Dr. Phil. "It seems to me, as a parent with a freshman in college right now, that there are a lot of people across America right now watching this, going, 'Lady, you ought to be glad that you have such a bright, alert, articulate, motivated, beautiful young woman as a daughter.'"


"I am proud of her and she knows that I love her and want nothing but the best for her. She knows that," says Monica.

"But she also knows that you want her to identify herself differently. And here's something you're going to have to get your mind around. When they hit that certain age, you can influence, but you can't control," says Dr. Phil.

"But I think still the problem is, I want her to know when she's out there meeting people and her mother can't protect her anymore, that there is still prejudice in the world ..."

Dr. Phil interrupts. "But that's a whole different issue." He turns to Cene, "You're just saying, 'I don't want to pick a team. I am who I am.'"


He tells Monica, "That's the reality of it, and that's what you've got to support."