As usual I let my laundry pile up, so now I’m doing laundry at a public laundromat to just be done with it all at once. Like commuting, when you go to the same place around the same time on a semi-regular basis, you start seeing familiar faces. Faces that you at minimum will nod your head to in acknowledgement and/or greeting. So when I say male neighbor here, I only mean someone who lives in my neighborhood, but not in my building with whom the following conversation happened:
Male Neighbor (from a country in Africa): Where are you from?
Me: Born and raised American. My family has been American for several generations for obvious reasons.
MN: Yes, but do you know your family roots?
Me (because I knew where this was going): What does it matter?
MN: It matters.
Me: Really? Let’s say a family from Mozambique migrated to England in the late 1800s. However, the descendants of from that lineage never returned to Mozambique and because of assimilation or for whatever reason, didn’t kept up with their “roots”. Is the family living in the Britain here in this century Mozambican or English after so much time? So I know my family tree is from this particular people in this specific country and we separated in the year of our Lord whatever. I repeat: other than as a talking point of reference and a place to visit – what does it matter? I am American.
MN: A person should always know their roots.
Me: Okay? Which side?
MN: What do you mean which side?
Me: The black side or the white side? Until you, your lineage has never left the continent so it is all African. My lineage has been in this country at very least within a decade or two or more before the Emancipation Proclamation. And let’s be honest the quote-Black-unquote blood lines on this side of the ocean have been very muddled through our history here to put it lightly.
MN: Exactly, which is why you should research, you should know.
*There’s another fifteen or so minutes of semantics in which I mention how in a weird reverse “one-drop” determination, there are some countries in my presumed Motherland that won’t even claim most Black-Americans as African at all because our blood lines are no longer “pure” even if I did know exactly whom to call family, but I will shorten it to the following:
Me: I would agree except there’s a point no one acknowledges.
MN: And what point is that?
Me: Which side? When I am asked do I know my “roots” it is always about my African roots and the query almost never comes from someone Black or African-American. Why do some Africans become so upset on what I do know or do not know, or just to piss you off, do not care to know of my quote homeland unquote? Do YOU know for a certainty that my homeland is in fact Africa and not of East Indian descent that then mixed once over here? It intrigues me that no one Caucasian has ever asked if I know my roots in reference to that end of the spectrum. Am I not equally entitled to know their side if they are also of my blood line? Is their land not also equally and potentially my “homeland”? I was born here. My parents and several generations before them were born here. Whether you like or approve it or not, and frankly I don’t care. If one was born here or in one of our territories one was American – period. An immigrant was from whatever country – unless they chose to become a full citizen and once sworn in from that moment on they were American – period. I am American. My roots are American. Because until the Late 70s – early 80s there was none of this Blank-hyphenated-American nonsense. And to swing this all the way back around to how this conversation began: other than as a lovely talking point and a place for me to visit – what does it matter right here and now in this laundry that has you in such a huff?
He left the laundry twenty minutes later. I’m still waiting for an answer.
It is Day 12 of the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge . Stop in and see how others are slicing it up!
I wonder if this world would be different if we all acknowledged that we are human beings and treat each other with the kindness and dignity all humans deserve. Sometimes playing devil’s advocate is needed to get people thinking deeper about what they are saying or asking.
Yes, this world would be very different, indeed. Thanks Arejah.
I can see your point! And yet I do enjoy searching for my roots. I have Family History and family trees for all my branches and all my husbands. I love learning the stories of the people who came before us. I love making the connections between people and places. There are some amazing women in our history, and quite a few whose stories are lost because records weren’t kept or were lost. We are a mixture of all of those people and I love thinking about how they are and were.