Beneath The Surface
Mar 18, 2013

Acknowledging that culture, racial identity and DNA can lead us down very different emotional paths

The "Being White In Philly" article published in Philadelphia Magazine has brought out a lot more conversation about who and what we are in this crazy, segregated, yet glorious old town. I, for one, was annoyed by the short-sighted perspectives uttered by most of the white people quoted by the article's author, Robert Huber. Yet, as someone who worked for Mural Arts in the same neighborhood and dated someone from that area who bought a house just a few blocks away so he could reinvest in that community, I know how pervasive some of those ideas are. It'll take much more than an apology and a series of dog-and-pony-show "town hall meetings" to get most Philadelphians to be honest and open about their thoughts about race. And then, we must ask ourselves what we plan to DO about it.

I had been waiting anxiously for the past 6 weeks for the results of the DNA test I mailed off to 23andMe.com, and they finally arrived last week. I will write a more formal dissection of my results on my various blogs, Facebook and other media in the near future. But I can say immediately that seeing some concrete information about my "root mother" ancestor is a very fulfilling exercise. There are still plenty of gaps to fill in for all of the ancestors that fall in between my ancient X chromosome and the extrapolated genetic info of my father, but at least I have solid information about an elder that I probably never would have uncovered merely through the limited data trails of census forms, wills, estates, and anecdotal memories.

When I look at myself in the mirror, and think back on my wonderful childhood, I will always see and feel that I am a black girl from Southeast DC. Child of a rainbow family of "Black and..." elders who lived fabulously adventurous lives, despite the turmoil of 20th Century America. Those actual stories form the foundation of who I am. Knowing that my ancestral mother was most likely Spanish--from SPAIN (not our colloquial term for Latinos)--a Galician or maybe a Basque French woman who may have settled in Algeria before giving birth to the generations of women who now congregate inside me, does not change that fact...any more than it changes the perceptions of the people Huber interviewed for his article, if we pass each other on a North Philly street. This black and white binary that is so rooted into American consciousness will be forced to change as its people get browner and poorer, but there is still so much misunderstanding and prejudice that needs to be worked out in the process. So much assumption skimming the surface and distracting us from the rich similarities that truly reside underneath.

Here is last week's playlist: