I know… I know…. don’t come at me y’all…..this is what I learned.
I am the quintessential child of people that were enslaved.
I am 75% West African and 25% European.
The slave and enslaver both exist in me.
My ancestors were property in the American South. That 25% isn’t a romanticized story of love, it is the story of the women in my lineage being raped. Property can’t give consent. They weren’t enslaved because they were inferior, they were enslaved because of political, social, economic and cultural self interest. Because capitalism needed bodies to feed off.
My ancestors could not legally learn to read or write or get married or keep their children because they were property.
This is what we call chattel slavery, a distinct form of slavery developed in the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In chattel slavery the enslaver has absolute power over the life of the enslaved person. People are bought, sold, inherited and enslaved in perpetuity as are all their offspring.
When I think of my DNA results and that 25% I can’t help but think of my connection and proximity to whiteness.
It brings up memories of being teased as a child for being “lighter” skinned for a Black person. I think about how my skin tone, hair and facial features are closer to European beauty standards and how white people are more comfortable around me than other Black people. I think about how skin tone/colorism is still a major way we judge and stereotype people that has real systemic consequences –from hiring and pay, to how folks are treated in the health, education, and criminal justice systems.
I wanted to share this with y’all because our histories, our lineages live within us and contain wisdom and truth that needs to be spoken. When I speak of freedom I don’t just mean freedom from white supremacy, I’m also speaking of freedom from all the ways we judge each other, the toxicity of thinking that anyone is inherently superior to anyone else.
We have to free ourselves from all of it.
I am my ancestors greatest dream come true. Their every hope and dream embodied in me and my children.
I come from people that only wanted freedom- mine and theirs.