|Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-29 00:54Z by Steven|
Often I’m asked “What are you?”
Racial and ethnic identity still inform so much in our culture. The question asked really is a question of identity. “What are you?” masks the underlying question, “Who are you?”
When I was young I was black. My father, Neal Hemachandra, was black. His mother, Leathe Wade Colvert, was black. Her mother, Martha Pleasant, came from Virginia and slave plantations. She was black.
I was black even as I carried an Asian Indian name and just as much ethnic heritage: my father’s father, Balatunga Hemachandra, emigrated from Sri Lanka. I was black even as I was Jewish: my blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jewish mother’s family were immigrants from eastern Europe, and much of their family died in the Holocaust. I was black even as American Indian and black Dutch genes contributed to my father’s ancestral lines…
American history and family history confirmed this identity. One drop. My parent’s mixed marriage: they were married in New York City, where they both were born, by a prominent NYC African American judge, Hubert Delany, brother of the Delany sisters who became famous decades later. My parents’ marriage was reported in the black press in several papers up and down the East Coast…
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