Monday, July 6, 2015

Race, Ethnicity and Other Bugaboos

I have been silent about racism. There has been so much chatter about it, I didn't want to litter the web with more. And this blog is supposed to be more about ancestry than social issues. But I did name the sub-title of my blog "Genealogy in Black and White" for a reason. So. . .

I believe the conversation about racism should begin with the fact that "race" is a myth. Race is a social concept not a biological one. I was not upset that Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane president of the NAACP, identified herself as black. Neither am I upset that Jennifer Beals identifies herself as white. We are different colors and hues. We have different types of noses and mouths and hair. All those things can be altered artificially. And we all belong to different cultural and sub-cultural groups.We can adopt different practices and habits, interchange them. They are not set in stone. So I wish the conversation could begin as "we are all the same and all different,"

As far as ethnicity goes, maybe we're so into hyphens in this country because we're so mixed up. Everyone comes from somewhere else except for the native Americans.  My own DNA test results said my heritage was mostly African, but nearly one third was made up of European. There was also traces of Asian and Amerindian. I chose not to identify myself as African-American even before I got those results. First, I don't like hyphens anyway. I am American by birth. Period. And even though I claim I'm Black, I'm really more of a caramel color.

Anyone from Africa, regardless of their color or hue, who becomes a citizen here could use the designation of African-American. Very few people call themselves European-American. They identify a country instead of a continent. Because of my slavery heritage, I don't know which African country to declare, although 26% of my DNA, the highest percentage, is from a Nigerian ancestor. But then 19% of my DNA, the second highest percentage, came from an Irishman.

I believe when we get around to talking, after beginning with "we are all the same." we should next say  there is no difference that makes one a "real" American or "true" American more than another person. Born, raised or immigrated, we the People are ALL Americans.

4 comments:

Mavis said...

Great post Jennifer. Except on forms, I've never been one to designate myself as African-American either. Besides, in our community, I've learned that what we call ourselves is a generational thing. Like you I claim I'm Black and have since the 70s. My mother on the other hand refuses to use both that term as well as the African-American. She says she's American Negro.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Mavis. You are so right about the generational thing. My mom sometimes slips and say "colored."

Cornelia Taylor-white said...

My husband family is related to Florence Octavia Alexander.

Jennifer said...

How is he related? She is my aunt, my grandmother's sister.