The Legacy of Race

A White Son Raised by a Black Man: Seeing Race From a Unique Perspective

Kevin Sims, who was raised by a Black man, and his girlfriend, Diva Reese. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Kevin Sims, who is white, remembers being on a beach when another white fellow asked him for a cigarette. As the pair talked, the subject of football came up.

And the other fellow showed his true colors.

“He was like, ‘Why I wanna watch football?’” Sims recalled. “I don’t wanna watch a bunch of (N-words) run up and down a field chasing each other.’”

Sims, who was raised by a Black man since the time he was 3, couldn’t stand for that.

“Hold on, bruh. That’s not cool for you to talk like that,” he responded. “It’s not acceptable. I don’t care where you’re from or who you are, we can’t sit here and have this conversation and me be OK with that.”

Sims remembers the other fellow being offended but shrugging off his objection. “’Alright then,’” he said. “’I’m done talking.’”

Sims said he’s developed some relationships with whites but largely hangs around “my kind, Black people.”

A native of Bessemer’s Jonesboro Community, Sims moved to the Gardendale area near the end of his eighth grade year and graduated from Gardendale High. He has known some people who have made off-color comments around him.

“I’ve had them drop the N-word in front of me a couple of times,” the 26-year-old recalled. “I even had one call me a N-word. That was my buddy. We got into it really bad about that. We were at the beach and he was kind of intoxicated but people speak their mind when they get drunk.”

Sims said he’s also called the W-word, where the first letter of “white” is substituted for the first letter of the N-word.

“I’ve got several black nieces and nephews,” he said. “Our friends growing up were black, so I never really saw color. All I knew is I was the white boy.”

Sims lives in Mount Olive with Keith Walker, the Black man who married his mother.

“He’s been the father figure out of my whole life,” he said. “He’s my stepfather, but he’s my dad. Blood couldn’t make us no closer.”

Sims said he’s been told he sounds as though he’s from New Orleans.

“I tell them I’m just from the ‘hood,” he said. “I’m born and raised and had to thrive to survive. That’s where my culture, my dialect came from, my flavor.”

He met his girlfriend, Diva Reese, when they were students at Gardendale High School. She is Black.

“You can catch dirty looks all the time, but it’s fine,” he said. “We learn to manage and deal. I hope that we can get some change done. I’m proud of the way we’re moving forward (in society) and trying to get things done. We’ve got a long way to go but that’s life.”