I've been fascinated by the DNA tests for ancestry for years and I finally bought one...two years ago. I thought I'd get the results and be so excited and want to share it with everyone right away! I did share it with a few people, marveling at just how many countries and groups appeared in my results, but I couldn't seem to bring myself to write the blog post I really wanted to about it. I typed up several different posts and erased them. Nothing felt right. I tried to write it by connecting to the foods of these places. I mean, I love food and it was really cool to research the cuisines and see that foods and drinks that I love but that some people consider odd for my region are actually typical in those countries....but it wasn't right. I tried to write it from a travel perspective, you know I love to travel. It wasn't right either, though. Most of the countries I haven't been to and honestly, I didn't really feel the urge to go to some of the others. Usually when I think of going on a heritage trip, I think of going to Opelika, AL where my father's parents are from to try and find old records and see the family home. I wanted to learn about all these places that make up my ancestry, but I just couldn't connect and, no matter what I did, I couldn't write this blog. Then last week, I finally understood why. I encountered a discussion on FB where a Black woman was telling her white peers that it was best to use the term "Black" when specifically referring to Black people instead of POC or African American. Some of them were saying they don't use Black because it felt wrong to them, they thought Black seemed disrespectful or like a slur. That's when it hit me, they're talking about "black" not "Black". What's the difference? The first one "black" with a lowercase b is a description. Probably an inaccurate one since most people fall more in the brown spectrum on the color wheel. That black is a throwaway word. A way to separate Black people from "regular" white Americans.
"Black" with a capital B is a heritage word. It modifies American the way that one might use Korean, Mexican, Pakistani and so many others. I'm a Black American. Black is my culture. You might say that my test results clearly show African ancestry, so why don't I want to be called African American. That's pretty simple. I'm not African. I've never been there and the many varied cultures and languages that come from the various nations there are not mine. Black heritage is knowing that you can't trace your ancestry completely and trying to make peace with that. It's understanding that the blood of people who hated, degraded and assaulted your ancestors runs right alongside theirs in your veins. It also means understanding that my heritage is marked by an extreme kind of resilience. People who were ripped from their homes and adapted to foreign soil and foreign shores are people to admire. Imagine knowing a cuisine your whole life and then being taken somewhere that doesn't even grow those foods and having to adapt your recipes to use this strange new produce. Imagine trying to wrap your tongue around a language from a completely different language family on hostile, foreign soil with no real help. Think about these people that tried valiantly to build families even though they couldn't legally marry and had to create a way to mark their marriages by jumping the broom. Even knowing that their spouse and children could be torn from them at any moment and sent away, they never stopped trying to raise their families and love each other. These are people that used their braids to create maps to freedom and tucked seeds in those braids so they'd be able to grow food once they got there. People who crafted their heartbreak in to song to give us blues and translated the rhythms of the drums they'd left a world away to bring us R&B. My heritage includes people who built businesses even when they weren't allowed to walk in to those run by their white counterparts. These are people that have constantly had the progress they've made as communities taken from them by unfair practices, prejudicial attitudes and sometimes, actual theft, but they didn't give up. My DNA results were telling me this story and I finally understand. I can look at these cultures and see which aspects survived hundreds of years and a multitude of struggles to still be a part of my culture now. I also want to be clear. My heritage as a Black American does not separate me from my brothers and sisters of different heritages. In fact, it helps me find my place in having a culture to share with them in the same way I enjoy them sharing their rich cultures with me. I'm finally as excited about my results as I thought I'd be. Ancestrally yours,