I have the blood of the oppressed and the oppressor running through my veins.
I’m in my late twenties and never knew, in addition to the German side of my family, whiteness abounds in the African American side of my family too. Not until today. Today I found out I am a direct descendent of slave owners.
I’m not sure why it surprised me. My dad is light-skinned, like his mother (who passed away before I was born). He doesn’t know exactly when the roads crossed, but he has distinct memories of gathering with white strangers—a rare occurrence for a Black kid living in Philadelphia in the 60's. The image of my six-year-old father attending family reunions on an old plantation in Virginia, sharing space with the relatives of those who enslaved his ancestors… our ancestors who enslaved our ancestors… it’s almost too much to carry.
I’ve always held the weight of the crossroads on my shoulders; it started at a young age. In my mind, and in my social circle, I couldn’t be both. I had to be white or Black. As one of maybe five mixed kids in my entire school, and the highly segregated nature of schools in general, I was at a loss. I had to choose. Or, rather, follow the path of least resistance. The path of whiteness.
I’ve unpacked some of that early childhood stuff in therapy. The anger and resentment I felt for having to discover my blackness all on my own in a world that would prefer I didn’t. I never understood why my dad avoided the topic of race in our house. If anything, it seemed entirely irresponsible. To throw his biracial children into the depths of white supremacy without teaching them how to paddle their arms and kick their feet.
But now I realize he is also lost at sea. Holding the weight of the crossroads on his shoulders. Spending an entire lifetime feeling as though he has to choose, being pulled down by a current of whiteness.
It’s working just as it was designed. White supremacy, I mean. Interracial relationships are no longer punishable by law in America, but by other forms of suffering. Suffering that will last for generations, no matter how much privilege you have (just look at Meghan Markle and her son Archie).
I pitched a tent in this corner of the internet mainly to hold space for myself and these feelings that hurt so distinctly but also feel too selfish to express anywhere else. I came here to scream into the void, under this virtual underpass.
I am hoping to eventually find some healing here at the crossroads.