Thursday, March 3, 2011

Czarina Obviousa on Racism

I’ve been researching my family tree. When I say “I,” I mean I pretty much just copy/pasted research done by others and posted on the internet and reformatting it in a way that won’t make the old ADD needle jump the chart.

I’ve been fortunate in that I was able to follow the research and trace one branch back to 1774 and another back to 1374. My maiden name has a very unusual spelling. So unusual, in fact, that when I ran it through the super-duper people search engine at work, the only other Americans I found with this particular spelling were my father, my mother, my brothers, my sister-in-law and myself.

Yep. We are truly the last of this line in America. My brother has three girls, so unless they are able to carry on the name, it dies with this generation. I seriously thought about changing my girls’ last names to hyphenate with their dad’s, but thought that would just be too pretentious and too much to sign on a signature line.

Both of my paternal grandparents were only children, so I didn’t have a lot of relatives that on that side growing up. I can honestly say there are about 17 people on my father’s side that I knew. That included my paternal grandmother’s people, and my paternal grandfather’s mother’s people.

However, after a few search engine fishing trips, learned that while my grandfather’s side of the family with the unusually spelled last name was small, there were cousins I never knew about. And it turned out, the one who is apparently my great-great grandfather’s sister’s descendant, who did the awesome research, lives about 2 hours from me. He’s some kind of blood cousin, anyway. Not the same last name anymore, but I don’t feel so isolated now.

My paternal grandmother’s family has the benefit for research in that several ancestors were political figures and therefore, there was accurate documentation of them and their families. There are three books written about my grandmother’s grandfather, and that’s where things got interesting on the genealogy message boards that I found.

It is a well-known fact that slavery was once legal in America. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change that fact or change the facts of history that were caused by slavery. One of these facts is that slave owners made it a custom and practice of having sexual relations with their slaves, consensual or not. I’m guessing not. This, of course, led to births that may have not been recorded as they should. Fast forward a couple of hundred years, and modern racism enters.

It’s easy for me to understand the viewpoints on race from a couple of centuries ago. What I don’t understand is why we’re still talking about the same issues now.

Apparently, one of my distant cousins is a descendant of a “relationship” between a slave and her owner and has had some difficulty of convincing other “purer” relations of his legitimate kinship. Another topic of discussion on the message boards has been denial on the idea that there may be mixed-race descendants, because according to some of the posters, “my relatives would not have done such a thing.”

Um, excuse me. Attention people who are making that assumption: were you, your parents or grandparents even ALIVE when these events were taking place? No? Then shut your whore mouths and here’s a copy of “Roots.”

My good friend, Irony, comes in about here: the ancestors who these racists have their knickers in a wad over, are Native Americans.

That’s right: “people of color” are in disagreement with other “people of color” over events that happened a couple of centuries ago. And what further incenses me is that these descendants feel they can speak for someone they’ve never, nor will ever, meet and that other descendants still have to fight this tired fight. Descendants of Native Americans and African Americans are still not recognized as members of certain Native American tribes. This may not seem like a big deal, but tell that to someone who is not recognized when they are filling out a census form or applying for benefits or scholarships.

The particular ancestor who has the books published about him also kept a journal. He wrote an autobiography from these notes and this was published, but not his private journals. Those were kept by my grandmother until her death, then by my aunt, her daughter. According to one of the books about him, written by a non-family member, he makes reference to those kinfolk in his journal, but alludes that it is not something the family likes to acknowledge. I don’t know if this is true or not. I’ve never been allowed to read the original journals. I’m not even sure where they are now, since my aunt died about a year and a half ago. I will probably never be privy to their contents, given my grandmother’s wishes to keep this family “secret” a secret.

Frankly, I was tickled to death to have any distant relations, regardless of color.

The Big One has a friend with whom she’s in jazz band, Jazz Band Girl, who is biracial. Jazz Band Girl’s dad comes to almost every band event (sidebar: big shout out to him, because that’s practically a full-time job) who is white. Jazz Band Girl has two younger sisters and I just assumed their mother was African American. Her mother doesn’t generally come to all the events, so it was several months into band season before I saw her.

Hello Irony, I’m so glad to see you again!

Who’s that white woman sitting with Jazz Band Girl’s dad and her sisters? Is it his girlfriend? Second wife?

Turns out, Jazz Band Girl and her sisters are all adopted. This was not even on my radar.

So my question is, am I any better that my ancestors and those involved in the discussion about race? I was making racial assumptions, just as they did and are. Have I done a 180 or a 360?

I know in a perfect world, we’re not supposed to see color and compartmentalize based on color, but we have a long way to go to make a perfect world. I loved the fact that at a recent slumber party, The Little One was the only white kid, but I hate the fact that I saw that and had the need to point it out to The Husband.

I guess it just makes me sad that this issue will never go away.

Every time I hear a member of the "Tea Party" proclaim, "We're taking back our country!" what I hear them say is "We're taking back our country from the nigger president!"

It's sad that no matter how educated a person is or how intelligent or if they have exemplary leadership skills, those will always be noticed after the color of their skin.

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