One of my favorite guilty pleasure shows is Pretty Little Liars. On the show, my favorite character is Spencer Hastings, played by actress Troian Bellisario. I’ve always loved Bellisario because she reminds me of a modern day Audrey Hepburn. And at almost 27 years old, she’s not one of these fresh off Disney channel teen idols that are so popular these days (despite her being on a pretty bubble gummy TV show). I recently found out something about her that has made her even more interesting to me; she’s part African American.
Bellisario’s Wikipedia page says she’s of Italian, Serbian, French, English, and African American descent. This immediately got me thinking of some recent BB&W discussions about people having ‘concern’ that black women mixing races will ‘wash out’ the black race in a few generations.
When it comes to the many reasons people use to deter black women from dating out, I find this one of the most outrageous. Mostly so because we know the statistics of black children born in America. I feel it is safe to say that as long as certain behaviors continue, there will be no shortage of black lineage in this country.
A person’s detailed heritage is usually nothing more than some interesting fact that can be shared over polite conversation. Generational make up tends to become irrelevant beyond grand parents. Once you begin getting to people so long dead that your parents don’t even know who they are, unless they are famous, does anyone really care? So why is it of such import that black people in this country ‘preserve the race,’ when it’s the same race mixing being opposed that created African Americans in the first place. If you are of African American, Caribbean, West Indian or any decent that was directly effected by the slave trade, there is a good chance that once upon a time, your family was white; and just as easily, it took just one introduction of African genes to change the whole direction of your family tree.
Looking at Troian (don’t you just love her name by the way?), I’m sure you would deduce that her African American lineage is fairly distant. On her show, she plays the quintessential over achieving WASP from a high status family living in rural Pennsylvania. I jokingly considered that in some of her photos, in the right lighting, and if I turn my head to the side and squint a little, she may look biracial, kind of like Lisa Bonet. But she honestly looks like your every day white girl. I don’t think anyone would outright guess she has any kind of black in her.
In a few generations, our family members may look just like Troian. They may look white and easily identify as white without a second thought. They may have no idea that our quests for better lives as black women is part of the reason why they are even in existence. But what many fail to realize is that our family trees can go in many different directions. Just as easily as our race mixing can spark a line of white decedents, it as easily meander into mixed territory, and turn right back around, producing a continued line of readily identified African Americans.
The same type of race mixing that created Sasha and Malia Obama who are considered three quarters black, also created their mother, a woman with a white great-grandmother. I feel it quite safe to say that Michelle Obama’s great-grandmother never imagined that she would have a relative who is the first lady of the United States. Not that I know them to know this, but I can imagine that Michelle Obama most readily identifies herself as African American. Sasha and Malia may also identify as African Americas who are one-quarter white. They could also possibly identify as multiracial, or multi ethnic, being of white, African and African American decent.
Sometimes the branches of a family tree can cross and twist in ways that we may not ever imagine. Let’s say there are two black sisters, and one marries a white man and the other marries a black man. Let’s say one sister has two biracial children and the other sister has two black children. Let’s say the biracial children go on to marry a black person and white person respectively. Their children are now either one quarter black or one quarter white. Let’s say the black children go on to marry a black person and Asian person respectively. Their children are now either full black or black/Asian biracial. Despite all the race mixing, a solid black lineage remains, though we’re not quite sure what race of person the black grandchild will marry.
Maybe he or she will marry a black person and that branch of the family tree will continue as such. Maybe the decedents of the black/Asian biracial person will continue to procreate Asian until they readily identify as Asian once more, but happen to have distant black relatives. Maybe the decedents of the one-quarter black grandchild will continue to procreate white until all of the decedents identify as white. Maybe the decedents of the one-quarter white grand child will continue to marry black until all of the decedents identify as black. Maybe they will all continue to mix in alternating generations and create a new age version of Hispanic.
Bluntly put, after our own children are born, we have no control over the color of skin of their partners, or their children’s partners, or their children’s partners. As has been discussed in the past, people who have such worries probably are better off not mixing races in the first place. But it’s safe to say in this day and age it is more important for black people to be more worried about raising good people than siring certain shades of people. Maybe it’s just fine that a white person having a black great-grandmother makes them interesting. Especially if that black great-grandmother is one of us. Maybe a continual mixing will promote an overall cultural current of asking a person ‘who are you’ instead of ‘what are you’?