Back in 2009, I wrote a post about race & self-identification and how being Black & X is treated differently than any other form of being multiracial. (The comments were special & filled with wank from someone determined to insist that being multiracial in America is just one overarching experience.) At the time I was specifically discussing being Black & White, but really that whole thing about the One Drop Rule & being visibly of African descent applies to being Black & Anything. Case in point this discussion of the Freedmen, the Dawes Roll, & why so many activists are rushing to insist that Freedmen = All Black with no Cherokee ties because somehow the blood of black slaves nullifies any Cherokee blood that would have been present. There were plenty of people born from the same set of parents, who found themselves sorted onto a different list from their siblings after slavery was over.
Want to guess who was most likely to be sorted onto the Freedmen list regardless of parentage? If you said the people who looked Black? Chances are excellent that you’re right. Now, a basic biology lesson about phenotypes vs. genotypes could be inserted here, but I’m going to assume my readers already know that appearance doesn’t really indicate ancestry. After all, being able to pass or not doesn’t nullify mixed race parentage. Really, you can have a white parent and still be darker than a paper bag. My great grandmother (listed as Blackfoot, but given that she was in Arkansas probably Choctaw) passed as a light skinned black woman to her neighbors. It’s anyone’s guess what she was running from when she married my great grandfather, but the reality is that her children didn’t lose that NDN blood just because they came out darker than a paper bag.
To deny heritage based on phenotype is already offensive as fuck, without then turning around and pretending history didn’t happen. It’s past time the cultural & social baggage of imbibed racism was addressed. Everyone wants to call black activists (especially black female activists) on the carpet for being too loud & not being inclusive enough to be silent. Welp, pretending that you get to turn to us for support, and then engage in bigotry against us and it is a-okay isn’t going to work out. We see you, we know this dance (we’ve already done it with white feminists, LGBT folks, black men etc.), and we’re not going to have our humanity or our heritage denied because you still want to act like blackness taints. And yes, I know you have a cousin, a nephew, a niece, or even a child that is of black heritage so you can’t be racist. That’s what makes this whole argument a sin and a shame. You’ve decided that modern black blood is okay (maybe), but the blood of slave women is not. The history of slavery is uncomfortable for everyone (after all there were some black slave owners too), but coming to terms with it won’t happen as long as people try to pretend that it didn’t have an impact on every aspect of this country.