Many people are “into” genealogy these days, hoping to find a king or queen, a prince, a famous general or a pope….I found out my family has been peasants since at least the 13th century! Hey, now, I’m okay with it. Really, I am. There’s NO dishonor in being a peasant. Unless you become one of your own volition.
If your great-great-great-great grandfather was a slave,
A) YOUR family was here FIVE GENERATIONS BEFORE mine.
B) It SUCKED for him. It DIDN’T HAVE TO suck for YOU. He had no choice. YOU DID.
Neither I nor anyone in my family put chains on anyone. You’re right, we didn’t do anything to remove them. We WEREN’T HERE. We were too busy trying to get here.
Let’s center our generations. Let’s just call it from our “birthdays”. From the day that one of each of our ancestors looked up at the sky and said “I’m FREE!”. For my family, that was in the early days of the 20th century upon arriving here from the poverty of the mountains of Italy. Ditto for my wife, and her family from Ireland. For one of my Jewish friends, it was fleeing the pogroms of the Tsars on one side and escaping the Nazis, on the other, some 75 years later. For “The Pilgrims”, it was the 17th, fleeing religious intolerance. For a former sergeant I know from Central America, it was three years ago, fleeing communist incursion. For yours, if you are truly the descendant of slaves, it was in the 19th. There. Ya with me? Good.
My generation is the first to have graduated high school and includes several doctors. The generation that brought us here worked hard. I’ve mentioned this before, but my grandpop “planted” telephone poles in the ground. Several of my uncles were in CCC camps and ALL of them fought for this country. They ALL worked the sharecrop farm that now lies beneath Newark Liberty Airport. They insisted we go to, and FINISH, school. Were they overjoyed by the kids who made honor roll? Yes. But then, they were overjoyed watching ALL of us graduate. A+ students and C- ones. With education, they knew, we’d be okay. We are okay. Same goes for all the people with whom I am personally acquainted that I mentioned in the list above. No, I wasn’t acquainted with anyone from the Mayflower. I’m a few weeks too young to have met any of them.
Before you get all “up in my grille” about “white privilege”, I’ll remind you that, not only are all the people I rehearsed not “white”, but some are from cultures despised for five millennia. We ALL lived in ghettoes. We ALL were abused. We ALL were treated as second, third and tenth-class citizens. We ALL worked. Hard. We ALL wanted “a better life” for our children, grand children and yes, “great-great-great-great grandchildren”.
Why did you stop? Why did you quit school? Why did you quit living a law-abiding life? Why did you start using / selling drugs and guns? Why is anyone, of ANY race, that is successful some sort of “sellout”? White Privilege? I have the “privilege” of being blamed and punished for things that I had nothing to do with. I have the “privilege” of NOT having a “White History Month”, an “NAAWP”. A “White Entertainment Network” or a “White Congressional Caucus”. Same goes for Jews. Or the Irish. Or the Asian.
We all made it. You, me, my wife. Your families and friends as well as mine. We all had our heroes and idols as well as our devils and demons. We all bled. We all starved. We were all afraid…but…with the PROMISE that AMERICA gives us, we can ALL rise above it. Some of us, many of us, in fact MOST of us HAVE.
May The G/DS, (yours, mine, theirs), BLESS the UNITED STATES of AMERICA.