I grew up in New Orleans and Creole means many things there. It means delicious food that I miss and can’t seem to find anywhere but there. It means a culture of music and liveliness to make you envious while you eat your proper meals with polite discourse. It also means a person of mixed descent, in particular European and African.
I took the Ancestry test about six months ago. Everyone I know was like no way am I going in that database. I’m of the belief that if you carry a smart phone and basically live anywhere near modern life, you are no enigma to those who want to know about you. And if you think you are, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Anyway, I knew 1/2 of my heritage was Scottish/English and the test returned that expectation 100%. Part of my family still holds the crest of the noble house we descend from and part of it still owns the castle in Scotland. It was the other 1/2 that was surprising. My paternal grandfather’s family descended from Spanish nobility near the Portugal border. I know that is a fact however that didn’t show up as much as my African heritage.
My great great (maternal) grandmother was 100% Mayan. I thought that explained my coloring. Somewhere there are some other secrets I guess because I have at least 6 different African heritages in my blood. I was less surprised by this than others might have been. I knew I was a mutt.
Once while riding the subway by myself in Bratislava to meet my friends somewhere, a guard kept asking me a question. I speak a few Romance languages but at the time not a lick of anything Eastern European. I thought he was a weirdo but he kept asking the same thing. Then he got aggressive and I got scared. People were staring so I said in English ‘I don’t understand’. Then he said in heavy accented English, ‘oh sorry’. He just wanted to see my ticket to make sure I hadn’t jumped the turnstile. I guess I looked like a hood in my American backpacker fashion. He got off at the next stop more embarrassed than me, lol. It wasn’t the first time I was mistaken for a culture I’m not just the most memorable.
My point? That the current conversations we are having are long, long over due. They may not all be happening with Socratic elegance, and they don’t have to be. There’s a lot of damn water under and over the bridge. Bear with those who are finding their voice as they maybe make a needed argument in a less than perfect way.
What is, is that we’re all the same however cliche that sounds. Now that I know my heritage it hasn’t changed me as a person. It has enlightened me. The man on the subway thought I was one of his people. I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter.
Many of us have been breathing rarefied air not realizing that while we have been given an oxygen mask others have not. It’s ok to be oblivious to our privilege until we are made aware of it and then we must do everything in our power to even the playing field. We haven’t won if 1/2 the competitors are suffocating without oxygen while the other 1/2 crosses the finish line with their hands up. That’s a coward’s race.
And I don’t want anything to do with that kind of win.