Recently, through genetic testing, I've found out that my face cannot tell you what I truly am. I took a DNA test and the results were that my origin is 82 percent West African, 10 percent uncertain North American origin, and 8 percent British Isles. I haven't processed this knowledge. I'm not dark. I'm not light. I don't have many "African" features except for the butt and the hair. There are some genetic traits such as sickle cell gene and my reaction to dairy products as something toxic. But other than that, in the phenotypic sense, I'm a creation of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade with some mixing during enslavement. The science doesn't lie. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever I am has changed little in the last 200 years. That's fitting. My DNA has been in existence for thousands of years and most of those eons, it has now been proven, were spent in West Africa.
I'm searching for the uncertain part. I started it with a chance conversation with a Caribbean professor. Followed that conversation up with an internet discussion with another Caribbean professor (Haiti and Jamaica have both been consulted). I hope to speak with a Pan-African scholar from Cuba. I'm handicapped because I don't even know how to contact someone in Cuba. The Haitian prof gave me a key. I had assumed that indigenous (and somehow labeled as 'uncertain') DNA meant Cherokee, Iroquois or something of that ilk. I had never considered Taino, Arawak, or Carib. Not even in the slightest bit. No matter how much I thought I knew I found, with the introduction of this uncertain ten percent, that I knew nothing at all. I'm still searching outside of what I know. I'm also searching for what is inside. And that is how we view each other.
I think one of the things we don't talk about enough in Black America is how our enslavement experience has made some of us have a pathological visceral distrust of each other. There is profuse conversation regarding Black America as a community but I'm constantly searching for examples which prove this phrase. Our experience causes us to have contempt for each other. Maybe not as bad as during the times when a Black doctor was a new thing and folks would request, Black folks, to not be serviced by him (or her). At the same time there were Black folks who would proudly state that their doctor was Black. Was this only when Black doctors lived among Black people?
When you have contempt for someone, in my opinion, you don't feel as uncomfortable as you should when you have committed an error against that person. And our version of Christianity, the slave masters' teachings, doesn't help as it is fraught with rationalizations for how and why and where it is okay to do wrong against your brother. It gives us excuses as well. "God will provide" is often used to take something, covertly and overtly, from someone else. It is often used as an excuse to not help someone who is less fortunate.
Even in our leisure moments, think on what I'm saying, we talk about ourselves in such disparaging ways. "You know how we do..." and "you know how it is when you deal with us..." I'm not the only one who has heard comedians, etc. make these kinds of comments to large audiences. Everyone laughed. No one was insulted. We accepted those words as if they were being read from the most irrefutable holy book. Do we really think so little of ourselves?
How many of you have raised money to go to and build a well or something like that in Africa? Now ask yourself could the money not have been spent in a more productive fashion and the pursuit of charity at home with say, buying some single mothers' washers and dryers? Those laundry mat machines are expensive and they practically eat folks' clothes.
How many churches have been closed due to foreclosure because of horrible investments? The only people who profited were the loan companies and the construction companies and perhaps a few lawyers hired to sort the devastation out. I met so many students at Howard who only needed food, shelter, some new clothes. Wouldn't it have been better to invest, directly, in those students? I think so.
But then again I'm nothing and I'm nobody.
I'm going to list a few countries for you now:
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Sierra Leone
These are all countries from which I have primary testimony from people who became students, business people, and scholars in the US. All had idealized a beautiful Black America. And all were personally mistreated and castigated by Black Americans and simultaneously given help, aid, and assistance by Whites when they immigrated to this country. And it isn't a recent thing. I have had conversations with these people and even (when I lived in DC) held pointed interviews with international students on this topic. I asked these questions because I was driven to know the truth.
So how can we even form the words African Americans with our lips when we make no moves to welcome our African brothers and sisters when they arrive, sick or healthy, rich or poor, to the United States of America? Please believe me when I tell you that we are missing a crucial opportunity to plead our case. We are missing an opportunity to undo some of the damage done by nearly 30 years of media misinformation and mal-interpretation of who we truly are.
I'm sitting here now writing this blog. A very well educated and unemployed African American woman. That statement is not meant to solicit pity. Only three generations ago my great great grandfather spent 35 years as a slave. I guess I'm doing this for him as well. Trying to have a positive effect on the future while unraveling, hopefully, how he came to be a chattel slave without any memory of a mother, father, language, or anything. He couldn't answer the question, as he had answered many others, "where did you come from?" Because of his enslavement he never knew.
As his descendant I ask another unanswerable: how do we undo what we've been taught about each other?
I used to ask people to not call me an African American. Today I feel ashamed of my ignorance. I have something very few descendants of the slave trade possess and this is a relatively unscathed African genetic self. To whom much has been given much is required. I have to continue to search myself to find a way to make you see that you're so much more than entertainment. So much more than ball runners, bitches, hoes, and niggers. And part of that is a thorough examination of how we deal with each other. I am not sorry if anyone is offended as I have yet to discover how to gently whisper, "fire" in a burning house.