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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Inquiry on the Color Line

Linda, First, your account of your research into your family's heritage was beautiful and honest. I so enjoyed reading it.
Linda the questions you ask have been asked by others too. The answers are simple and complicated. When each of us reads and answers your questions, we bring to the table our own experiences of mixed heritage. I can only answer you based on who my people are, how they reacted to similar circumstances, where and when I was born, what part of the country I live in and the attitudes of my community.

I once read an article that defined being African-American as 75-80% African blood and 25-30% Native American and or European blood. The article stated most of this mix took place early on in our history here in North America, 1600 to 1800. Many of us who are conducting family research have come across the words "mulatto" or "light" or "fair" or "yellow" or "red" in census and other records. We know now that these words have come to describe our family member's mix heritage. So I could say that to be African-American means you are inhertently of mixed blood, perhaps the most dominant being African.

Let me tell you briefly of 3 women I met in my life that have helped me to shape how I feel about my heritage. I once met a girl from Africa. She was a very happy proud person. I was happy to meet her because I knew my people were from her. I felt a kinship, a sisterhood with her because of that. When I shared my feelings of heritage with her she quickly corrected me. "Oh no Toria, we are the Africans and you, well you are American. We are pure and you, well you are not." I was young and hurt. I didn't know what she meant and her words would be with me for many years. I met another woman years later who was very angry just in general. She described herself as a person who was of European descent. I didn't understand it because well, she looked "Black" to me. Well she said that 2 or 3 generations ago a Black man or woman married a White man or woman in her family. It happened once, it never happened again so she wasn't really Black. Okay. The next woman I met was married to a White man, had a family and lived in a White community. She said she never knew any other life to live because her mother was White and she never knew her father.

Linda my conclusions are this. I stand with those people who were forced against their will to come to the North American continent as African slaves via the Middle Passage. I identify with those who wanted to live "free" in a land that wasn't their own. I hold up the slaves who dreamed of a life like the one I live today. I'm a dream of a slave come to life. I'm proud of those slaves, proud to be their descendants and I know they would've been proud of me.

So Linda, I guess what I'm trying to say is you've got to be okay with whatever you think you are. Take what you need from your mixed heritage to make yourself whole. Be proud and conduct yourself as such. I would conclude that people who choose one heritage over another do so because it simplifies their lives and simply because they can. Don't worry so much about what others think about your choices. To choose or not to choose isn't the start of racism but a product of it. Racism bagan long before the slaves arrived. It was an idea in someone's head who thought white was good and black was bad.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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