Right at the time of renewed racial tensions in the USA comes this short and very gritty look at an aspect of the relics of the Civil War that few ever think of. Reading this really opened some channels of thought that few ever considered. While we can’t reprint the article in full, but we can take some selected passages that can hopefully get across the idea that the writer was going for.
NASHVILLE — I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.
If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument.
“According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.
It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.”
“You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.”
If you feel that removing the statues of Confederate leaders who committed treason against the United States somehow diminishes our historical perspective, you just need to think a little differently. You need to understand that black folks whose family history goes back to the Civil War era or before are very likely to be monuments to that era unto themselves.
If you have seen that great PBS series called “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates understand that the harsh slave system included rape and mixed children. The descendants are with us everywhere.
Please read the article. It is short but very evocative.
And here is a video to remind us what racism was like in the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately in many ways we seem to be headed back that way. (26 minutes, but really worth it).
Roger Wilkins was an assistant Attorney General under Lyndon Johnson, the first minority in that position. He is also the nephew of Roy Wilkins who was head of the NAACP from the 1930s to the 1970s.