Black Is a Multiracial Country

Black Is a Multiracial Country

The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Senior Editor

Tami [Tamara Winfrey Harris] finds out she’s 30 percent white. This changes nothing:

So, now, after discovering that I am 70 percent sub-Saharan African with cultural ties to Balanta and Fula peoples in Guinea-Bissau, the Mende people in Sierra Leone, and the Mandinka people in Senegal… that I am part of Haplogroup L1b, one of the oldest female lineages on Earth… and that I am also 30 percent European…Who am I now?

Well… the same person I was before. I am a black American woman with all the rich, cultural history that implies. Thirty percent European biogeographical ancestry (likely derived through oppression and sexual violence), doesn’t change my identity. I don’t think 60 percent European ancestry would change my identity. I am a black American—my culture is my culture. I would also add that learning more about my African roots doesn’t make me Senegalese or Fula or Mende. I am a black American—my culture is my culture.

I’ve been thinking about my response to the whole beiging of America story, and part of it is premised on the arguments, but I think another part (and perhaps the deepest part) is premised on my own understanding of identity. I haven’t been tested, but I recently “discovered” that some generations back I also had “white” ancestors. My response was basically the same as Tami’s—I’m black…

…The point here is that when we discuss a “beiging of America” as though it’s new, it really ignores the fact that beige people are as old this country. But sometime in the 17th century, for rather embarrassing reasons, we decided to call them “black.” Therein is the diabolical lesson of American racism. Prejudice is arbitrary. There are no fixed, natural rules that say who is in and who is out. As soon as the people change, given a good reason, “race” and “racism” change with it…

Read the entire article here.

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