Like most people who grew up without knowing one of their parents, Wendy Spencer always felt a deep-seated need to find out about her biological father. When she took an extensive DNA profile from the company 23andMe to learn more about her lineage, what she found out was way more than she bargained for.
Spencer, who is Jewish, married to a Black man and has four biracial adult children, learned that her father Bill Miller is a bigot and her grandfather was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who was once arrested for setting off a bomb at a Black college.
Wendy's first clues that something was amiss came after she went to visit Miller in Texas. "I noticed that much of what he said had a racist tone. Everyone had a category — Black, Anglo, Mexican — and he talked about slavery and segregation and the way things had been. He told me that Memphis, the city he was born in, had been ruined because of Black people. It was very upsetting," she tells People.
"After I met him, I was horrified to hear him talk. I knew that I had to go home and talk to my husband about what I'd discovered about my dad. It was difficult for me. His mother-in-law's parents were murdered for being Black in the south."
Despite her misgivings, Spencer invited her biological father to California to meet her husband and children. That didn't go so well, either. "I invited him to breakfast and he used racial slurs and made derogatory statements," says Wendy's husband Victor Spencer. "When I confronted him, he defended himself and said, 'People need to calm down and get over it.' I have no time or patience for someone like that, but his existence is important to my wife, so I let it be."
"It's hard for me that [Wendy] chose a black man as a husband," Bill responds. "And it was hurtful, the way I was interrogated by Victor when I went out there. But I'm going to try to do whatever I can. I'm going to try to be as good a dad as I can to my daughter, and a good grandfather to my grandkids."
Amazingly, the Spencers and Miller are trying to make it work and stay a part of each others' lives despite their vast differences in views. "I didn't wait all these years to find my dad, only to discard him," Wendy shares. "With every relationship, no matter how imperfect that love is, it's better to have it than not have it at all. You can't choose your family. Hopefully, my dad will see that we're not the people he was taught about and has carried in his mind his whole life."
As they say, you can't choose your family.
(Photo: Wendy Spencer via Facebook)
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