Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for the ‘My Family’

I say to you White Americans, “You are not as white as you think!”

One of the reasons I consider myself Black, despite my white skin, is that, as a result of the One Drop policy which ruled this country for hundreds of years, so-called “African Americans” are actually a people of extremely mixed heritage: African, European and Native American.   It may be essentially racist, but our culture is steeped in it.   We are the Hispanics of the USA.

Most have heard (a lot) about the old trope of the White slave master who would go down into the field to spend time with the slave mistress.   And sure, that happened.   And that has something to do with the mixing in the African community here.   But, I like to remind people what I would have done a hundred or two hundred years ago.  I would certainly have moved to a big city somewhere up North and claimed to be some kind of White Mediterranean type, or possibly Jewish.    And I’m sure lots of Black folk did exactly that.   And they took that secret to their grave.   That means that, if you’re White, and if you’re family has been here more than three generations or so, than there’s a pretty fair chance that you’ve got a more colorful ancestry than you might assume.   I think that these injections of African ancestry into the European community here happened at least as often as the other way around.   We’re all a lot more mixed up than we like to believe.

A History of Strong Black Women in my Family Bible

My mom’s family (the Black side of the family) has a great, old, family Bible. It’s one of those afro-centric Bibles, with wonderful painted illustrations of Black Moses and Black Christ and all the Black disciples. It’s big and thick, and mostly waterproof. There’s something puffy and leather-like about the cover. In short, it’s a wonderful bible to have as the family bible.

At the front of the Bible it holds genealogy information, going back five generations (six including my kids). I was looking through it the other day and noticed that the genealogy in my family bible is actually matrilineal — it’s the history of the women in my family. All the men, going five generations back, were drifters of one sort or the other. They travelled the world, and rode harleys and in general were badasses who didn’t necessarily stick around with their women or for their families.

I hope that this isn’t as relevant to my experience as a Black man as I fear that it just might be. In any case, I plan to be around for my son. Not that my wife isn’t great, but I hope that she’s not the main branch of my new family tree, the way that women have always been in my family.

“You no longer represent the voice of African Americans”

Oh, my. This is a prime illustration of the perils of “ethnic studies”. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great for people to study other cultures. But you have to distinguish between the things that you learn in school, and the things that you learn by, well, being.

My mom is a prominent research doctor who has a lot of occasion to talk about disease in the African-American community. She’s a little older now and has been doing the Jefferson’s thing for a little while, moving on up, but she’s made a real effort to stay in the community.

Anyway, she’s got a co-worker, a white lady, who is the resident expert sociologist who has studied African-American culture in post-grad studies. She had some disagreement with my mom and told her point blank that my mom, a Black woman, can’t really speak to the African-American experience anymore, basically insinuating that if you’re a professional, academic or affluent African-American that your experience is somehow inauthentic.

This is one of the most insidious problems, I think in both the white and Black communities. Members of the Black middle and upper class are seen as “sell-outs” who aren’t “real,” and therefore there’s pressure to _not_ be upwardly mobile. Getting this from an over-educated white woman is just adding insult to the injury.