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This isn't necessarly where the magic happens, but it is where black marriage and black parenting play host to current events, personal observations, hot questions and inquisitive insights.

As the old saying goes, "I was born black, and I'll die black."

But staying married, especially with kids, while black is no easy thing. Statistics suggest it is now an anomaly. Our culture has commodified and turned a blind eye to relational pathologies and dysfunctions that have become normalized.

Today, adjusted for population growth, fewer black couples than in many years - proportionally - are getting and staying married. Fewer black children are born to a husband and wife who live in the same home.

What are the conditions that make this so? Where are the landmines we collectively trip over in our quest for love? Which situations or nuances can make it so challenging for us?

Black Married Momma is here to open up the dialogue. This is an exam, not a pop quiz, so please take a seat.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"I Got Indian in My Family" & The Mythology of Our Make-Up


People are taking Henry Louise Gates, Jr. to task for his recent article on The Root, "High Cheekbones and Straight Black Hair: Why Most Black People Aren't Part Indian."

He goes in on the commonly espoused notion of the many African-Americans who think they are part Native American (with major shouts out to the Cherokee), claiming that we are enamored by a the mythology more than we are willing to face some hard facts. Gates suggests that these stories of our ancestry have been passed down through the generations, becoming part of the lore and canon of our family trees.

The fault, he says, is not entirely our own, as our elders over the decades have been the arbiters of the claim, with tales of great-great-grandparents joining tribes, intermarrying with tribes or, of course, having the hallmark features of a tribal genetic footprint: straight(ish) hair and high cheekbones. (I'd throw in there aquiline noses and almond-shaped eyes, too.) These features, according to Gates, came not from Native Americans, but from a mix all too many of us are still too pained to acknowledge.

"The average African American is 73 percent sub-Saharan, 24 percent European and only 0.7 percent Native American. So, most of us have quite a lot of European ancestry and very, very little Native American ancestry. And if this Native American DNA came from exactly one ancestor, it surfaced in our family trees quite a long time ago—on average, perhaps as many as 10 generations, or 300 years, ago, which means about 1714."

Moreover . . .

"Whereas virtually all African Americans have a considerable amount of European ancestry in their genomes, only 19 percent have at least 1 percent Native American ancestry, and only 5 percent of African American people carry more than 2 percent Native American ancestry. How do these percentages translate into ancestry? Well, if you have 5 percent Native American ancestry in your admixture result, that means you had one Native American ancestor four to five generations back (120 to 150 years ago). If you have 2 percent Native American ancestry, you had one such ancestor on your family tree five to nine generations back (150 to 270 years ago). One percent of Native American ancestry means that this ancestor entered your bloodline six to 10 generations back (180 to 300 years ago)."

By virtue of DNA testing (I've had African Ancestry and racial admixture testing performed.), I am allegedly five percent Native American, a percentage higher than most African-Americans and one that supports the claims of my father's side of the family. By the way, we have to account for all those high cheekbones, skinny eyes and curly/wavy hair (I didn't inherit that last one.) somehow, right?  Far be it from us and so many of our extended African-American brethren and sistren to see the obvious: that high cheekbones and narrow eyes are found on the Continent of Africa; in fact, I see Nigerians with those signature features all the time! And, undisturbed by torturous thermal processing or harsh texture-altering chemicals, black folks can grow some hair!

Moving on . . .

Gates candidly implies that we, African-Americans, need to get over it, seeing how most of us allegedly have nary a drop of Native American genes (and neither do the many White Americans who claim they, too, have Native American ancestry, he asserts). Instead, our comfort in declaring Native American ancestry stems from our deep collective shame about what was really coursing through our veins - the gene pool of white slave masters, overseers and other predators on account of rape, coercion and assault.

"If it’s any comfort, genealogists say white Americans have the same Cherokee great-great grandmother fantasy that many black Americans share. But here’s the difference between white and black claims of Indian ancestry: Ultimately, I think it was much easier for black people to invent a putative Native American ancestor to explain mixed-race features and hair textures than to confront the terrible fact that we have so much European ancestry because of forced or cajoled sexuality during slavery, “especially the sexual violence that established those ties of ancestry” in the first place, as Krauthamer put it to me. The fact that so much of our genetic admixture arose from rape is one of the most dreadful, and most visible, legacies of “the peculiar institution” called American slavery."

My husband's family was (and still is) telling the myth of Native American ancestry, only for his DNA results to reveal absolutely NO such genealogy, but a rather shocking level of European genetic input and a paternal gene pool that doesn't even originate in Africa.

So are so many of us preserving a lie, knowingly or unknowingly? What stock do we have in claiming a Native American identity when, according to science, so few of us have any such measurable ancestry? Is it because we want to wash over painful memories of rape and non-consensual access, or does it say more about how we feel about what we see - or want to see - in the mirror?






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