Everybody has a story

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“You know we’re cousins, right?” 
That’s what a white surgeon said to my maternal Aunt Margie (even her birth certificate spells it that way) roughly four decades ago as she worked alongside him as a surgical nurse. The surgeon’s last name was Elder, which is my aunt’s maiden name, and he had visited some of our family members and wanted to share with Aunt Margie the family Bible.

Everybody has a story; particularly in the South. My teammate Chris Matthews (this one) says I’ve been thinking too much in writing this story about the tensions between the mixed race community and Blacks in Atlanta. I’ve talked to all the right people, got the great quotes and all that. But there’s something that’s just blocking my normal flow and rhythm.

Ever since my team was assigned the mixed race community as a topic, I’ve been a bit apprehensive. As an African-American woman from the South (I can travel to Oconee County, Ga,. and see the land on which my ancestors slaved), mixed race wasn’t my experience, at least not explicitly.

I’m one of those black people that say Barack Obama is the first African-American president and get kinda’ touchy when people say otherwise. I even had a discussion with Andrew about it when we were putting together our mixed race timeline in Vuvox. Our managing editor wanted to say he was the first mixed race president. I pointed out that he identifies as African-American. In the end, we settled on this ambiguous language: "the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya." Exactly.

So this whole topic has been somewhat of a struggle. It’s not as if I’m a stereotypical, militant, angry black woman—although I have fought the power, on occasion. I live, in the way of Skip Gates, an almost post-racial existence. My oldest and best friends—the ones I talk to every week—are white and Asian. As an adult, I have worshipped in predominantly white and multicultural churches and I’ve been educated at predominantly white schools since eighth grade. And I know that race is a social construct, that we are more alike genetically than we are different.

But I’ve been struggling these past few days. This might be why. The other day on Twitter, Melissa Harris-Lacewell (@harrislacewell), an associate professor at Princeton, and Blair LM Kelley(@profblmkelley), an associate professor at North Carolina State, answered tweet-ions about America’s mixed race history. The two are best friends and regularly engage in dialogue with other folks about race and other topics on the social networking site. Enlightening dialogues. Here is what got me:

profblmkelley @SpenceLowry Difficulty with mixed race identity, flattens blackness. Speaks to parentage of [mixed race people, assumes black people are not mixed.

Eek. I don’t want flattened blackness.
I sent her this question:


@profblmkelley that's the ? we're asking, ie. "traditional, single-race minority" groups..what are the consequences as more people id as [mixed race]

And her answer:

profblmkelley@KDavis No such a thing as a single race minority group when it comes to black Americans. Ignores mixture not recognized during slavery.

Yes. It does. I thought back to when we were designing our section front for the web. Our professor/editor asked our group (three white teammates and myself) if anyone was mixed race. I raised my hand and said something like, ‘I’m sure I am, somewhere.’ And she kind of brushed it aside—not maliciously—because I couldn’t explicitly link myself to a white ancestor. Is my mixed race experience not legitimate enough to have an opinion? That gets, I think to the heart of why I’ve been having a hard time. What is my stake? Where do I locate myself? 

I’m thinking too much because I have a lot to think about.

As for that surgeon, he died of a brain tumor before he could share the Bible with my aunt. But he apparently has a son who is also a doctor. Maybe I’ll look him up the next time I’m home. As of now, I'm waaay past my deadline.

Post by: 
Kimberly Davis
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