"This is our life. This is our music. It's our minstrel show." - Little Brother, Minstrel Show Closing
Wow. This is waaaaay back. I went back to this post this week because of the question of the day, yesterday, over at Vox. The genealogy question still bugs me on a personal level but a lot of the feelings I had in this post have changed or been tempered a bit. I could see someone like Barack Obama as President of the United States. I know a bit more about my family lineage. I'm a lot less angry and frustrated by it all. This is probably the first of the true identity blogging, identity discovery pieces on this site. The month or so that would follow would set the tone of the site for most of it's life. This is when the rest of the blogosphere started to take notice and about a month before Joe Boxer would put this site on the national map for a day.
But damn, did I ramble a lot back then. This is an excerpt of the original long ass post. It has been edited because the quality of writing makes me cringe.
The Friday Five - Ancestry
1. What is your lineage? Where are your ancestors from?
I have no idea. First of all, we're only going to deal with my mother's side of the family as I don't know my biological dad's at all (let alone his name but that's for another day) and for matters of ancestry my adoptive father, my real dad, as it were...well, his family doesn't count at least as it relates to me. I don't think anybody in my family knows for sure. Its never talked about so the assumption is that we are just 'of African descent.' We are people without a country of origin. I know that my great grandmother was half Cherokee American Indian. Its interesting to me, though, we never discuss that side of our family, either. I wonder if this is why (courtesy christianitytoday.com):
(History is always messy, as Startup observes: West mentions in a note on the Cherokee Constitution that it explicitly denied rights to blacks and mulattoes; many Cherokees were slave holders.)
Even when I'm hanging with the American Indian, I'm a nigger? Fuck me.
2. Of those countries, which would you most like to visit?
Hmm...can't answer since I don't know although I've always had a hankering to go to Senegal. Is there some residual connection hard-lined for me there? I have no idea.
3. Which would you least like to visit? Why?
Still can't answer.
4. Do you do anything during the year to celebrate or recognize your heritage?
I mock Kwanzaa and say 'Umoja' a lot because that's the only word I can remember.
5. Who were the first ancestors to move to your present country (parents, grandparents, etc)?
Sometime in the last 400 years, somebody got shackled and put on a boat. Alex Haley didn't write about my family so I have no clue who or when that was. This Friday Five struck me because it really goes to the root of something. Ex-Girl was Italian. She didn't even do the hyphen thing. Her family was fucking Italian ova here. She knew when her family immigrated. She knew that they were from Sicily originally and that, yes, there was some Mafia shit that made them have to leave the country. She hung her Italian flag with pride. She learned Italian in school because she wanted to be connected to her culture. It gave her an incredible sense of identity to be able to make those connections and know that history.
My grandmother on my dad's side and his sister joined a movement in New York that is all about living an African lifestyle. My aunt married some guy who pretends he's a prince. He might have several wives, we're not really sure. They eat this supreme vegan diet based on 'African' traditions and they are always talking about culture and heritage and what-not when they call me collect trying to figure out how I can hook them up with some shit because I am the MTV man. But it all seems so strained and fake to me. They are connecting to a continent but not a specific people that they come from. Are they Kenyan? South African? Do their people come from the Congo? Zaire? What?
It seems like bullshit.
I don't have any connection to Africa other than that I know that sometime somewhere somebody was yanked from the land and brought here. Maybe they were sold by their king. Maybe they were captured in nets and shackled disappearing like a kidnapped child today. I don't know. I can't make a connection to some anecdotal history on the hope that it applies to me. What connection do I have to this nebulous Africa. Fuck Africa. Tell me I'm Senegalese, Egyptian, Ethiopian. Find me a story that explains how my family couldn't afford their land so they sold a son or daughter to stay alive or how white men ran through their homes with guns and whips taking what they would or how the tribe elders exchanged people for food and liquor and spices and safe passage. Just tell me something that relates to me that tells me who I am because this surmising, hoping, "well, maybe" shit don't work. Amistad and Roots are nice stories but they are someone else's history and I need actual to know who I really am. Where I really come from.
I am a man without ancestors to celebrate.
And see this is the thing: All my life I've been told to just be a proud American, that the American history is my history. And I agree. African-American, Black, Negro history in this country is amazing. It is incredibly harsh but it is amazing. But it is also very short. And nobody else here is just 'American.' Everybody else hyphenates with a country and with a history and with a story. To me that African-American hyphenation might just as well read 'former slave' 'civil rights' 'pissed off.' It certainly doesn't read 'Family from Japan,' 'Made in Korea,' 'Probably Cooks a Mean Pasta Because Her Family is from Italy.'