Blake Griffin couldn’t understand why the store clerk was struggling to see his dad. Then a youngster, he realized his father, Tommy, was standing a little ways away, but still, he was pointing right at him.
"Where?” the clerk asked again. "Right there,” Griffin said, pointing still. "The big guy with the bald head?” "Yeah, the black guy.” On the eve of Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament opener, the Griffin brothers are the undisputed faces of Sooner basketball, Blake as everyone’s player of the year and older brother, Taylor, as the well-spoken senior captain. Theirs are also the faces of change in America. Blake and Taylor are the children of an interracial marriage. Tommy is black while mother, Gail, is white. In the last census, almost 7 million Americans identified themselves as multiracial, a staggering number considering interracial unions were still illegal in some states less than 50 years ago. Now, children of those unions are seen in every walk of life. Tiger Woods. Beyonce Knowles. Halle Berry. Even president Barack Obama. "I am and always have been extremely proud of who we are,” Taylor said. "I really wouldn’t trade places with anyGail Griffin taught their sons. "When you look back at all the things that they’ve done, it makes me want to be the kind of people that they are,” Blake said. "There’s no way I’d not want to be like my parents.”
Teaching life lessonsTo think, interracial marriages like Tommy and Gail Griffin’s were finally made legal in all states only four decades ago. Truth be told, when the two met while teaching at Classen High School in the early 80s — Tommy was the basketball coach, Gail the cheerleading sponsor — interracial relationships were often still frowned on. A 1967 Supreme Court ruling might’ve made them legal, but it didn’t mean they were always accepted. Yet when Tommy and Gail started dating, they had few problems. They credit Classen, an Oklahoma City public school that was diverse in every way. Ethnic. Religious. Socio-economic. "Classen was like an international school,” Gail remembered. "We had the first Vietnamese (students) in Oklahoma City. We had Hispanic. We had Indian.” There were occasional stares and comments. "But really, there were no issues,” Gail said. "We weren’t confronted ever, which is amazing at that point in time in Oklahoma City especially.” Tommy said, "You just shut people out. It’s only important to the person who’s listening, and if you’re not listening, you don’t have to worry about it.” Tommy and Gail told their boys similar things as they got older.