Raven-Symoné’s father, Christopher B. Pearman, is speaking out after his daughter has received an enormous amount of backlash from her recent comments about race and how she wants to be labeled.
Pearman managed his daughter’s career from her first big break as Olivia on The Cosby Show in 1989 up until her wildly successful Disney musical, The Cheetah Girls, in 2003.
In an interview with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, Pearman discussed his daughter’s recent headline-making interview with Oprah Winfrey and also talked about the key principles in his book Dream So Big: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Believe and Achieve.
Symoné sparked outrage from Where Are They Now? viewers earlier this month after telling Oprah that she’s “tired of being labeled,” and more specifically does not wish to be categorized as “an African-American.”
“That girl is brave,” Pearman said of his daughter’s statements to Oprah. “I taught her to be brave and to stand tall in whatever she believes in. I felt proud to be able to watch her stand up and say what she felt, knowing the backlash that would come from it. I give her a lot of credit for her courage and bravery. It just cemented the love and respect that I will have for her for a lifetime.”
Symoné’s comments to Oprah during an episode of Where Are They Now? sparked outrage from critics on social media and the blogosphere. In an exclusive statement to theGrio.com, Symoné addressed the criticism she received immediately following her interview with Oprah and wanted to make one thing clear; she’s still “black.”
“I never said I wasn’t black … I want to make that very clear. I said, I am not African-American,” Symoné said. “I never expected my personal beliefs and comments to spark such emotion in people. I think it is only positive when we can openly discuss race and being labeled in America.”
As for Symone’s wish to not be categorized as African-American, Pearman says he supports his daughter’s stance.
“She knows she’s black. We didn’t bring her up to be stupid. We’re black,” he said. “I just see Raven as being Raven. She’s black, because I’m black and her mamma’s black. So that’s not even a question.”
“I think what’s she trying to say is we shouldn’t look at each other as ‘this’ or ‘that,’ but rather ‘us,’ and if we do that, we evolve as a species,” Pearman added.
When asked if he used the term African-American to categorize himself and his children during Symone’s childhood? Pearman replied, “I use the term negro. Some say ‘African-American please?’ I say ‘negro please?’ On my birth certificate it says negroid. We’ve had all of these names… I will never deny and she will never deny her blackness, and she’ll tell you that. Black people are one of the most incredible races on the planet.”
During her interview with Oprah, Symoné also addressed rumors surrounding her sexuality. She said that although she’s in a loving relationship with a woman, she doesn’t want to be labeled as lesbian.
Pearman says he discovered that his daughter was in a relationship with a woman just a few years ago, but it was never an issue for him.
“When it comes to homosexuality, that’s a person’s choice,” he says. “It wasn’t an obstacle for me to overcome. I can’t speak for her mother, but no not for me.”
“I don’t judge. So when she came to me, she was real surprised. She was like, ‘I know dad’s gonna trip.’ As a father, I’m more so like, ‘It’s gonna be a hard road now, so be strong.’ I would never say I don’t condone that or it’s wrong.”
Days ago, Symoné posted an open letter on Facebook, blasting her online bullies. Pearman says, “no one on this earth is perfect,” so nobody can throw stones at his daughter.
“People don’t understand what she’s done and where her mind was when she was doing it. She wasn’t all in the tabloids and doing drugs. She’s always tried to hold herself respectfully. What she does sexually in her life is her business.”
Pearman’s Dream So Big: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Believe and Achieve, is being re-issued next week, and in it, he offers tips and advice to parents on “how they can help their kids make their wildest dreams come true.”
“What I found out is we are all dream makers… that’s the only reason why we are here,” Pearman says. “To see our dreams, fulfill them, and see if that gives us joy,” he continues. “That’s what this book is all about, and that’s how I raised Raven. From the moment she could understand what I was saying I taught her that whatever she could dream… she could achieve.”
Follow theGrio.com’s Entertainment Editor Chris Witherspoon on Twitter @WitherspoonC.