Friday, November 16, 2012

Kinda, sorta, a little bit black.

This has been a crazy month or two for me. You know, what with discovering my father has brain cancer, getting the kids back to school and trying to get the second book in the Persephone Campbell series out (I swear, it's coming, it's coming).

But on top of all that my mom recently called me on the phone. Here's my recorded (via memory) transcript of that conversation.

Her: Honey, do you have a few minutes to chat?

Me: (My brain on the all-cancer all the time channel) Of course. What is it.

Her: Well, it turns out we're black.

Me: What?

Her: Your great-aunt passed away and your cousin discovered some photos of your great-great grandfather and he was black.

Me: What?

Her: And your cousins have some genetic skin disease that's only found in people of African heritage.

Me: What?

Her: Honey, is there something wrong with your phone? I feel like you can't hear me.

Me: Umm, how is it you're just discovering this?

Her: *Giggling* I know. I guess it's something your grandfather just never mentioned.

He was my great-great grandfather so I guess that makes me kinda, sorta, a little bit black.

We all know I'm a writer, not a mathemetician so I'm not even going to attempt to figure out what percentage of me is actually black.

What this unexpected nugget of information has done has left me struggling with silly PC terminology.

First of all, I'm pretty sure having a black great-great grandfather doesn't mean I get to say I'm black. Or does it?

I'm leaning towards no.

Secondly, if the answer is yes to the above question I don't think I get to refer to myself as African-American because he was from the Belgian Congo...or do I because I'm American. See the ridiculous flights of logic-fancy I've been taking.

What I know for certain is I'm the great-great grandaughter of a French woman and African man who raised a family in Belgium. The writer in me doesn't care so much about the labels and is fascinated by the story. With a little digging, I feel like I could have the makings of an amazing historical novel about forbidden love.

The absurdist in me can't stop giggling. I've been trying to come up with a label for my kids. Are they Jewish-African-DAR? (On my father's side there's a whole slew of women clutching their pearls as they read this post). Maybe they're Cau-Congo with half Jewish heritage?

Or maybe, like post-feminism, we've finally reached a point in society where we're post-label.

That gets my vote!


Beylit said...

I vote for post-label. Pretty much everyone is a mutt in America. It is exhausting trying to classify people. Here is my easy solution. Were you born in America? Then you are American with probably mixed heritage. Congratulations. So much simpler that way. If you want to be really specific you could always claim the place you were born/live in, like I am a Texan (though not among the crazies who want to succeed)

I also vote for intriguing historical romance about forbidden love. That may just be me though.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'd say we're just all Americans here.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Just admit it - you're a mutt!

Connie J Jasperson said...

Welcome to the Family! We are all 50% retriever, 50% labrador, 50% dachshund,and 50% St. Bernard - (Thank you Bugs Bunny for that geneological quote)!

~Sia McKye~ said...

This made me giggle. Gotta love your mother for giving you something else to ponder. :-)

I don't like labels. I suspect that many could look back and find out there are all sorts of things in their background. Back then it was considered scandalous to have certain bloodlines. Today? Who cares?

The Bookworm said...

I'm post-label too Johanna.
And this all inspiring you to write a romance about forbidden love is wonderful :)

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I'm so sorry about your father. (If you posted that before, I missed it.) Good luck with everything.
I love that you can still laugh with all the other stress going on! I hope you can dig up more of their story, I bet it's fascinating. :)

jaybird said...

That sounds like the beginnings of an amazing story!

My brother contracted a specialist to do a detailed geneology report on my father's family for a Christmas gift. My father went bonkers, he loved it. There were so many interesting things we didn't know about his family, and it was amazing in its detail.

I love diversity and think it's really cool to find you have a piece of heritage you never thought you would! Good stuff.

Botanist said...

I vote for ditching the labels. You are who you are, and where you come from is a story that no label can do justice to.

Emily R. King said...

That's why doing genealogy is so important! You never know what you may find. :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

I BURST out laughing with your mom. So matter of fact, dropping such a bomb.. too funny.

I LOVE the idea of digging and writing about this forbidden romance.

Too cool. WE are ALL mixed. Who knows who was with who centuries ago.

My cousin did our family tree and discovered some interesting skeletons too. On my grandmother's side we had EGYPTIAN. Who knows which kind dark or light...

As she was a blonde with crystal blue eyes. Hmmm. that doesn't seem to fit... right? Well, that's where the Norwegian comes into play. Boy did those VIKings get around. LOL.

Thanks for the laugh Johanna.

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, definitely mutt! :)

Diane, except blogging does cross international borders.

Alex, I admit it!

Connie, love Bugs Bunny

Sia, my mom made me giggle too.

Naida, love it when inspiration comes from unexpected sources.

Thanks Rachel.

Jaybird, this is inspiring me to delve deeper into genealogy.

Botanist, exactly!

Emily, yes, so true.

Michael, so glad I made you laugh and I love all the interesting twists and turns of bloodlines.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Sorry to hear about your father.

I vote for post label! Your mom is too cute.

Barbara Watson said...

How fascinating to discover that!

Chuck said...

It's not needing to say your black but it is kind of nice to have that card to play if need be. I'd have somebody figure out the math for you coz that would be crazy to know and share!

I am sorry to hear about your dad. I am sharing this link with everyone I can regarding taking control of your own cancer survival.

I have read this book (some parts several times) and given a copy to all of my family members. I recently have given it to two of my friends who have loved ones with cancer. One with liver cancer is on the protocel therapy and seeing really good results.

My gift to you...Happy Thanksgiving my teeny tiny bit of black friend :)

Ella said...

Oooh, this is a must for a story!
Wow...I go with the last one~ I bet most of us are mixed. I say I'm a Spindian-since I can see the Spanish n' the Indiana, but I really don't know. People laugh, then say "oh, yeah, I see it"-tee,hee

Shell Flower said...

You cracked me up with this: "Are they Jewish-African-DAR? (On my father's side there's a whole slew of women clutching their pearls as they read this post)." LOL. They are probably the only ones that care anymore, and those are the dinosaurs. These days, we're all mudbloods and usually proud of it.

Julie Flanders said...

Oh, this is so interesting! And that sounds like an absolutely fantastic historical novel.

I'm sorry you've been struggling with so many things recently, I will hope for the best for your Dad. Can't wait to read Losing Hope and find out what is next for Persephone. :)

Sherrill said...

I am so saddened to hear about your dad, Johanna. I'm thinking of you and your family.

The rest of the post cracked me up, and I felt gratitude that we are living in a time that you can post this :-)

Talei said...

Oh, funny. I don't know, its kinda cool that we're all mixed up, really. I've got so many different races running though my veins, I've lost count! No label required, still the same you, right?

And I'm very sorry to hear about your father, I'm not sure how you're coping but I hope you are well. Take care. xo

Carol Kilgore said...

That gets my vote, too! I'd say you and your kids are 100% American.