Black Identity–Who Are We?

African American? Black American?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Anyone growing up Black in the 80’s and 90’s knows that if you looked a certain way, people would ask you ‘are you mixed?’

Are you mixed?

That’s an interesting question, because the answer is almost always ‘no, my mom and dad are black.’ Yet, the person being asked, is most likely ‘mixed.’ The person asking the question too, is probably ‘mixed’ as well.

Over the years, the term ‘mixed’ has taken on negative implications. For example, those who claim to be ‘mixed’ are thought to be self-haters. It’s understandable though. For years, ‘mixed’ became synonymous with ‘pretty.’ As if, pure African ancestry was something to be ashamed of.

Pure African ancestry should be celebrated, but having ‘mixed ancestry’ is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s history. It’s your genetic history, which is just as unique as someone who has pure African ancestry.

On that note: What if I told you that almost all Black Americans have mixed ancestry? We’re not pure Africans. We’re ‘historical mutts.’ African Americans are unarguably a new ethnic group. A small population of people that are physically and culturally distinct from Africans.

Ambitious claims aside, it is undeniably true that most African Americans are mutts. We’re largely a mixed breed of people. Our DNA still bears the signature of the inhumane and enduring slave trade.

Here’s a picture of my ancestry:

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 10.31.05 PM

Irish. British. Iberian. The European ancestry I have.

I showed my results to a white friend, whose only response was: “I hope that was consensual DNA.”

I nodded, lips tight. “Me too.”

But we both knew that the chances of it being consensual were extremely low. Even if it was consensual, as people still claim Thomas Jefferson and Sally’s ongoing relations were, it was still rape.

Why?

It’s simple. Slave masters didn’t need to ask for sex. They had all the power. They could rape and pillage without consequence. The black woman was left naked and unprotectedno laws made the rape of black women illegal. That means black women were fair game–for everyone, even black men.

I understand that researching your genetic history may be mentally trying, but I charge everyone to uncover the story of your DNA. Lay the skeletons to rest. Come to terms with the fact that as blacks in America, most of us are the products of rape and violence.

When you’re done with that, figure out who these people were. They were not just slaves.

They were people, with names and families who could no longer remember what it was like to be African. They were stolen, and kidnapped, and forced into a life where their names were robbed from them.

Let’s change the story, first by understanding your DNA and second, by researching who your ancestors were.

 

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