I knew I had to be able to state my genealogy. Even though I feel shame about decisions my fore Fathers made, exploitation they commanded, cruelty they perpetuated, and the path of inequality they forged, I find pride in creating a new path. Even though my culture is so pervasive and powerful it's hard for me to identity, there is nothing else I can do. To ignore my inheritance is to shun the privilege I continue to gain from it.
So, here it goes. Big, fat, White people worts and all.
My father's people came from England to South Carolina with a licensed letter from the King bequeathing 326 acres of prime real estate for growing tobacco. My dad remembers finding arrowheads as he played in old slave quarters located on the delapitated plantation property still in the family through my dad's childhood. I read the first-name only descriptions of over 400 slaves and the will of my 5th Great-Grandfather stating his desire to leave his fine porcelain sink, coveted oak bedroom furniture, and slave girl Chancy to his wife should he die. My dad's family tree has a member that fought on the Southern side of every American war, making me a genuine Daughter of the Revolution, and a Daughter of the Confederacy. White supremacy runs thick on my dad's side.
My maternal lines originated in Spain, with the Conquistadores that moved in from the east coast to the west coast of Mexico. Once on the West Coast of Mexico, they moved north to settle ranch lands now known as Beverly Hills and Renondo Beach. Rich in land only, they lost their grand ranches through drought and horse-racing bets. My Great-grandmother was raised a Spanish-speaker but stopped speaking her birth language when she married a Swedish man and partied too hard. She turned away from her birth culture to fit into America, like so many other European immigrants. My Grandmother taught my mom to speak Spanish. Grandma got educated and a good job after my Grandfather died. She worked her way up to achieving her American Dream.
I have the privelage to feel a deep longing for a culture membership that is mine that is not based on conquering or enslaving or exploiting. I get the Whitevantages that have come in my life but I want an ethnic belonging. Or maybe I just wish my particular ancestorial song was not so steeped in civilization but something cool like jazz.
When it came my turn to carry on the Spanish speaking vibe, I dropped it myself by joking my way through Spanish class and never engaging my mom about her ancestors so she spoke limited Spanish to me. I never showed interest - too spoiled white girl to care. And now I seem to have inherited my dad's Southern speech impediments for non-English languages because to this day, trying to speak different languages feel like sucking on sandpaper.
My English turned Southerner-side began their existence in America by defining themselves in terms of who they were not. To be a Southern gentleman was to be White, not Black. Even a hint of African race in one's bloodline was enough to shackle.
And being White was socially defined by strict adherence to white supremacy. Aligning oneself with whiteness was such a powerful force for my people that my kin performed the most vile crimes against humanity. My foremothers sent their sons and husbands off to war against an enemy that would dare define race any other way.
Examining my racial inheritance makes me possess a drive to work towards a different future. I can't change the past, but I can educate my people how to grow our own food, interact and make better choices with our own trash, and examine the rampant consumerism among my kind that is the core of so much of the Earth's current exploited state.
A few years have passed now since I first started stating my genealogy in public and I have began a few different speaking engagements with the stories of my people. One of these times I may start with, "My ancestors fucked it all up and I am here to do my best to un-fuck it up. Sorry." Instead, I smile my sweetest White girl smile making sure my dimples will show and I say, "My name is Krista Joan and I greet you with love and acceptance from the only place from which I can speak. May all people learn from our ancestors so we can forge a new path."