Category Archives: Black History

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.

 

Reparations for Slavery–Let’s Talk

The United States owes reparations for slavery. That is the controversial conclusion that the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. They’re a group that works under the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. They’re all accomplished international law and human rights experts. Some of their main duties include:

  • Studying the problems experienced by people of African descent in diaspora
  • Proposing measure to ensure these people enjoy swift and full access to justice systems
  • Addressing all issues concerning their well-being as is defined in the ‘Durban Declaration.’

To read the full list of duties, visit this site for more information: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/

They outlined in their annual report to the committee that America’s dark past has continued to shape the experiences of African Americans. Here’s a table to help you visualize the time frame:

1619
First recorded Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia
1808
Importation of slaves from Africa became illegal. Slavery STILL existed at this point.
1820
Slavery north of the Missouri river made illegal.
1850
Further evasion by Congress of the problem of slavery . “Compromise of 1850.”
1857
The famous Dred Scott Supreme Court case that established that slaves were not citizens.
1863
Slaves became free.
1865-1866
The Black Codes: a series of discriminatory laws aimed at undermining free blacks. Slavery made illegal nation-wide by 13th amendment.
KKK established in Tennessee
Pre-war land owners received amnesty
1867
Reconstruction period: the aim was to ensure that the rights of former slaves were safeguard, by supervising former slave state laws.
1868
The fourteenth amendment ratified, which classified former slaves as citizens
1870
Black men granted right to vote
1948
Black people allowed to fight alongside white people in wars (Military became integrated)
1954
Segregation made illegal by Supreme Court; armed military needed to enforce decision
1965
Voting rights act passed to eliminate discrimination against Black voters
1992
Four police offers acquitted after a recorded beating of a Black man, Rodney King.

Note: For a few years immediately after reconstruction, there was a rise in Black government officials.

Note: Keep in mind that between the mid 1860’s and the mid-late 1960’s African Americans were systematically discriminated against. Even though slavery was officially abolished in 1863, and some laws were passed to ease the suffering of former slaves, there was no rehabilitation program that could smoothly transition them into society. Even so, African Americans were able to progress.

Immediately after slavery was made illegal, the Black community progressed a lot. Small communities were created, businesses flourished, and colleges were created. They were meant to be a haven away from the harshness of White supremacy.

Unfortunately, these communities were not kept safe. Between the 1860’s and the 1960’s, the racist White majority that made up most of the United States ensured that the Black community never felt truly safe. They ensured that they would never feel at home in this country that their ancestors robbed. The silent White majority sat back and watched.

The story of being Black in America could be summed up by telling you that Blackness is a memory. It’s a memory of the harshness, the inhumane cruelty that your mother’s grandmother undoubtedly went through. It’s the memory of the hard life your grandmother endured. It’s the memory of your own mother saying, “Stay calm. They won’t hurt you.”

The story of being Black in America could be summed up by explaining the feeling. The first time you felt it you couldn’t be more than 8 years old. It was the first time you saw disgust, hatred, concern, even. The disgust because you couldn’t understand the difference between you and a classmate with skin several tones lighter than yours. Hatred, because you took something you liked. It didn’t belong to you. You didn’t know any better, but they didn’t care. Concern, because you live in a neighborhood that they’re afraid to go to, but you’re fed well and people look out for each other.

Police brutality in America is new? “No way,” says the Black community. It’s been happening since my great grandmother was freed from slavery.

So, when the United Nations states that the United States of America owes reparations, why is the first thing people say, “slavery was years ago. Move on”? No one says that to victims of the Holocaust, which happened between 1941 and 1945. 

Consult the timeline.

My grandfather would not have been able to join the Military during that time. My grandparents were being systematically prevented from exercising their rights as citizens.

My Uncles would not have been able to go to a primary school with White children.

My parents were born during the end of the civil rights movement–a movement created because Black people wanted peace–the peace to live as American citizens, without the fear of terrorism.

Ask yourself, has that been achieved? If so, by how much? If not, what can be done?

.

.

.

.

In loving memory of all minority victims of police brutality and white terror.