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Scott Staples 
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Re: “'Kaleidoscope': the story of a discovered African-American ancestry

Hi A. D.,

I can see how I misinterpreted your earlier post; I apologize. I didn’t look at the links, because I assumed you were just generalizing; it seems that generalization may be applicable anyway. In Physical Anthropology, which I have studied a little, they say “there are no races, only clines.” That is to say that, in spite of exhaustive searches for such, there has been no genetic basis found for what we consider to be race, just variations from one group to another based upon adaptations to varying geography and other evolutionary factors.

It is interesting to see the changes in views of race over time that you point out in your essay. There's no question that in the United States we assign a lot of value to our racial identities. It is easy to fall into the trap of stereotyping others based upon the social construct of race; probably because we accept the attribution of our own traits to stereotypes about our own racial identities. We’ve probably all made statements such as, “I guess that’s why I can/can’t dance, like/don’t like this food, have/don’t have this trait!”

The Chavis family detailed in the book lived during an interesting period where racial categorization was undergoing foundational changes. I suppose that, in some ways, they were transitioning from a period in which they could maintain a superfluous racial identity into a period in which stratification and other factors would induce them to choose only one: “white” or “black.”

Since our family discovered the terms "Melungeon" and "Mulatto" back in the 90's, we have discovered many definitions (that are not always in accordance with one another). As the actual definitions of these terms become more clear, it seems that many of these definitions were attempts to assign the most personally palatable ethnic origin to one's ancestor(s).

I'm glad that we now have the opportunity to look into our ethnic past through DNA. It's really an invaluable genealogical tool. Ultimately, I hope the effect will be for us to recognize and be proud that we are all multi-ethnic. I think I like Toomer's idea about an American race if there must be a race; however, it seems as though we are culturally a long way from such an identity.

-Scott Staples

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Scott Staples on 07/09/2015 at 10:18 AM

 

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