Sleeping Dogs

The other day, I read an article in a major U.S. newspaper about one family’s experience with DNA tests. I think it’s great people want to discover their heritage, but frankly, I don’t trust the accuracy. My father was tested and the result was the company really couldn’t identify his ancestry, but they concluded he was mostly European. My father is African-American. Then again, given U.S. history, he might well have a good chunk of European ancestry.

Anyway, this story was about two women, sisters, who had the test performed and the result “blew the family apart,” as the paper put it. Here’s what happened, as I understand it. A couple, both white, got married. The wife had an affair with another man, also white, and they produced a daughter. The husband had sexual relations with another woman, who was black, and they produced a daughter. I hesitate to say affair because given the time period and not knowing the circumstances, I can’t be certain the black woman was a willing participant in their relationship.

So not only are these two NOT sisters–completely unrelated–but one is biracial. Well, that just fucked up their minds for a while. After a lot of soul-searching, they’re working on figuring out their new relationship.

A friend read the article and asked what I thought. My first reaction was the two women should have just let sleeping dogs lie. But that’s not really fair. They didn’t know, and that’s why they wanted to find out. What it does is illustrate the nature of white privilege in this country. The sister who learned she was biracial just about lost it. In American history, biracial children are considered black, a notion that persists to this day. So here’s this woman, who’s grown up thinking she’s white and a first-class citizen, finds out she’s really black and a second class citizen. All of the privileges she’s enjoyed as a white woman are now threatened because if she reveals what she is, those privileges could be denied her. White people in this country automatically see each other as good and trustworthy (until proven otherwise), while people of color are seen as bad and untrustworthy (until proven otherwise). As for the white woman, if she has a bigoted mindset toward people of color, how does she relate now to her “black sister,” a woman she grew up with and considered family?

Well, like I said–they’re working it out. But if anything, it shows how the tangled history of people in U.S. has resulted in extremely complicated race relations. I doubt I’ll see it improve in my lifetime–especially given this white supremacy bullshit we see so much of these days–but I don’t know if it’ll ever improve. Pulling together to repel an outside threat? Like an alien invasion? To be honest, I’m not sure even that would do it.


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