Soledad O'Brien

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Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O'Brien accepting the NAACP President's Award in 2007.

M. Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

When Soledad O'Brien debuted as host of CNN's "Black in America" documentary series, she volleyed plenty of questions -- especially from the black community -- about why she should be the one to tackle the premise.

Turns out, O'Brien is black, too. She is the daughter of a black Latina mother and a white Australian father; she grew up in a primarily white neighborhood with parents who insisted she identify as black. As a mixed-race, first-generation American, O'Brien became a broadcast journalist and found herself fighting for equal coverage for people of color [source: O'Brien].

"At screenings for 'Black in America' I've heard people say, 'Well you know I never thought you were black until you did [pieces on Hurricane] Katrina and then I thought you were black.' And I'd say, 'That's so fascinating. What was it that made you think I was black?'" said O'Brien in an interview to promote "Who is Black in America?", her latest installment in the documentary series.

"And then someone else would say, 'Yeah, but she's married to a white man.' And I'm like 'OK, so does that make me less black and how in your mind does that math work?'"

In the end, O'Brien (who's also produced documentaries for CNN on being Latino in America) relied on a lesson learned in her childhood: "My parents taught me very early that how other people perceive me really was not my problem or my responsibility. It was much more based on how I perceived me" [source: O'Brien].

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