What You Don’t Know About Being ‘White’ in America

m and m The current presidential emphasis on constructing a border ‘wall’ between the United States and Mexico, the limitations placed on certain immigrants permitted to enter this country, and the current deportation efforts supported by policy initiatives all possess a common thread. Travel bans are largely focused on countries whose populations can be considered ‘people of color’- non-whites. Countries with large populations of identifiably non-whites, are now to be excluded from the access to this country’s promises of  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness-the American Dream, and/or the rights of equality as envisioned by  ‘A Dream’ of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also.

However, given this country’s already infamous past and notorious practices, people of color will always be indelibly interwoven into this country’s fabric and the familial history of all who believe their roots are solely European in lineage. Thus, as it turns out, many white people may not be so “white” after all.

In fact, millions of Americans who consider themselves white actually have multi-racial roots. A fairly recent study offers yet more evidence that race is no more than a social construct. It demonstrated that:

  • Many of us human beings have “hidden” African ancestries. Geneticists from institutions including Harvard University analyzed DNA from thousands of Americans who described themselves as being part of a singular racial group. The results, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, revealed that almost 4% of participants who identify as white have “hidden” African ancestry.

The study: Thousands of customers of 23andMe, a genotyping company, submitted saliva samples for DNA analysis and answered questionnaires about their racial and ethnic identifications. One questionnaire asked participants about geographic ancestral origins while another asked about racial affiliation. Only customers who said they identified with a single racial or ethnic group were included.

The study included 150,000 white participants and several thousand Latinos and African-Americans. The participants collectively included 48 states. Researchers used participants’ DNA samples to render their genetic profiles and compared the results to their self-reported ancestries.

  • There’s a link between racial identity and geography. The frequency with which self-identified white participants had African ancestry varied significantly by region. And ancestry patterns appeared to mirror major population shifts tied to historical events in American history. For example, researchers found white people with African ancestry at much higher rates in southern states. As much as 12% of self-described European Americans from South Carolina and Louisiana had African ancestry. And in other parts of the South, it was about 1 in 10. Researchers estimated that this interracial mixing, which geneticists call “admixture,” started about six generations ago (about 180 years) — before African-Americans migrated to the northern states.
  • Oklahoma, the study revealed, has the highest proportion of self-identified African-Americans with Native American genes. Oklahoma also happens to be where Native Americans and African-Americans first crossed paths, so to speak, when Native Americans walked the Trail of Tears in the 1830s after being forced out of the South.

The socio-political climate in this country implies that the will of the masses is for a less diverse population demographics. In other words, since we are imposing strong limitations on incoming diversity, brown people, the message is that there should be a more white America. That is an impossibility. Since early in this nation’s history, decisions were made to enslave Africans.  It is the former enslavers who have determined the fate of this country’s racial composition by past injustices committed against people of color, indigenous groups, and women, as well. People, not property, with brown skin tones, were wholly at the whims of whites during this period in history. Those whims, sexual assaults, suffered by countless women[and men] held in bondage produced offspring of mixed descent. Of course, there was authentic ‘love’ shared between whites and blacks also, but can love accurately describe relationships between enslaver and the enslaved? Yes, but far less frequently than abuses of power  and physical and psychological survival as we delve deeper than surface.

The Next Phase:

dani dallas amelia beach
My daughter, her husband and their daughter, Amelia!

A phenomenon called ‘passing and covering’ was practiced, many years ago by some African-Americans who were of mixed heritage.  ‘Passing’ was passing for white and ‘covering’ was concealing one’s blackness, which meant also distancing  from family members who were identifiably black. Some children were very fair skinned, light  complexion, with associated hair color and textures, and racial identity basically undetectable.  Assumed to be white, and they sometimes conveniently owned it. There was nothing for the passers to do, overtly, because if assumptions were made about racial identity, there was no necessary action-simply no denial. Black pride was not in vogue, so to speak.  Opportunity and access was afforded to them as were whites and that practice became a vehicle for upward mobility. They mingled and navigated society without restrictions imposed on other blacks. What people didn’t know would not hurt them. It just offered better, more peaceful existences in society.[ to be explored at another time]

They went on to live as whites, and marry as whites-without detection. Today, though, it is not openly practiced, and most often it is not intentionally. There are assumptions made by others which assigns ‘whiteness’ to blacks with features some associate with being white. At this point in our evolution, we are, indeed, a rainbow of hues and very few of us conceal or are ashamed of being or having some peripheral membership in the African-American/black diaspora. To think a little deeper about this phenomenon, it makes complete sense that white America is not as white as they may have come to believe.

Theoretically speaking, there must have been some who knowingly ‘bastardized’ the ‘purity’ of  so-called white lineages, as whites had done to their ancestors. How’s that for Karma!

DNA analysis is a powerful method that enlightens and illuminates ancestral heritage better and more accurate than any other tools that trace family lineage. My advice to those who believe that they are 100% Caucasian or any other socially defined ethnic group, and feel justified being discriminatory separatists,  possess biases and prejudices, is to trace your family roots. The results shall astound! That’s funny, because, we all are of mixed heritage at some point in our family genogram. I suggest, once again, that we all trace our family’s history, and it will certainly confound many when discoveries are made.

In the next 20-30 years, the minority groups will outnumber the ‘white’ or dominant groups in this nation of ours. Yes, there is a browning of America. Imposing limits on incoming groups will not change that prediction. After deportation of undocumented immigrants  in the U.S., the ‘of color’ populations will still outnumber whites.  Some whites may feel threatened by that forecast, but rather, we all must learn to respect our human diversity. It is what makes us just that-human! ALL ONE RACE-just with different ethnic and geographical expressions of our humanness! THE HUMAN RACE-we’re all in this together.


Amelia Eden!

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