Friday, June 23, 2006

Why Race Isn't as 'Black' and 'White' as We Think

An interesting article from the NY Times -

October 31, 2005
Editorial Observer

Why Race Isn't as 'Black' and 'White' as We Think

People have occasionally asked me how a black person came by a "white" name like Brent Staples. One letter writer ridiculed it as "an anchorman's name" and accused me of making it up. For the record, it's a British name - and the one my parents gave me. "Staples" probably arrived in my family's ancestral home in Virginia four centuries ago with the British settlers.

The earliest person with that name we've found - Richard Staples - was hacked to death by Powhatan Indians not far from Jamestown in 1622. The name moved into the 18th century with Virginians like John Staples, a white surveyor who worked in Thomas Jefferson's home county, Albemarle, not far from the area where my family was enslaved.

The black John Staples who married my paternal great-great-grandmother just after Emancipation - and became the stepfather of her children - could easily have been a Staples family slave. The transplanted Britons who had owned both sides of my family had given us more than a preference for British names. They had also given us their DNA. In what was an almost everyday occurrence at the time, my great-great-grandmothers on both sides gave birth to children fathered by white slave masters.

I've known all this for a long time, and was not surprised by the results of a genetic screening performed by DNAPrint Genomics, a company that traces ancestral origins to far-flung parts of the globe. A little more than half of my genetic material came from sub-Saharan Africa - common for people who regard themselves as black - with slightly more than a quarter from Europe.

The result that knocked me off my chair showed that one-fifth of my ancestry is Asian. Poring over the charts and statistics, I said out loud, "This has got to be a mistake."

That's a common response among people who are tested. Ostensibly white people who always thought of themselves as 100 percent European find they have substantial African ancestry. People who regard themselves as black sometimes discover that the African ancestry is a minority portion of their DNA.

These results are forcing people to re-examine the arbitrary calculations our culture uses to decide who is "white" and who is "black."

As with many things racial, this story begins in the slave-era South, where sex among slaves, masters and mistresses got started as soon as the first slave ship sailed into Jamestown Harbor in 1619. By the time of the American Revolution, there was a visible class of light-skinned black people who no longer looked or sounded African. Free mulattos, emancipated by guilt-ridden fathers, may have accounted for up to three-quarters of the tiny free-black population before the Revolution.

By the eve of the Civil War, the swarming numbers of mixed-race slaves on Southern plantations had become a source of constant anguish to planters' wives, who knew quite well where those racially ambiguous children were coming from.

Faced with widespread fear that racial distinctions were losing significance, the South decided to define the problem away. People with any ascertainable black ancestry at all were defined as black under the law and stripped of basic rights. The "one drop" laws defined as black even people who were blond and blue-eyed and appeared white.

Black people snickered among themselves and worked to subvert segregation at every turn. Thanks to white ancestry spread throughout the black community, nearly every family knew of someone born black who successfully passed as white to get access to jobs, housing and public accommodations that were reserved for white people only. Black people who were not quite light enough to slip undetected into white society billed themselves as Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, South Asian, Native American - you name it. These defectors often married into ostensibly white families at a time when interracial marriage was either illegal or socially stigmatized.

Those of us who grew up in the 1950's and 60's read black-owned magazines and newspapers that praised the racial defectors as pioneers while mocking white society for failing to detect them. A comic newspaper column by the poet Langston Hughes - titled "Why Not Fool Our White Folks?" - typified the black community's sense of smugness about knowing the real racial score. In keeping with this history, many black people I know find it funny when supposedly white Americans profess shock at the emergence of blackness in the family tree. But genetic testing holds plenty of surprises for black folks, too.

Which brings me back to my Asian ancestry. It comes as a surprise, given that my family's oral histories contain not a single person who is described as Asian. More testing on other family members should clarify the issue, but for now, I can only guess. This ancestry could well have come through a 19th-century ancestor who was incorrectly described as Indian, often a catchall category at the time.

The test results underscore what anthropologists have said for eons: racial distinctions as applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts. In addition, those categories draw hard, sharp distinctions among groups of people who are more alike than they are different. The ultimate point is that none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking. All we ever really know is what our parents and grandparents have told us.

Puerto Rican Mothers

I got this forwarded email - I thought it was cute, so here you go, enjoy! :)


The great things mom taught me:

My mother taught me RELIGION -
"Ay Bendito, pidele a Dios que yo no te agarre coño."

My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION -
"Deja que lleguemos a casa coño"

My Mother taught me about my ROOTS -
"Malagradecido, cuando yo era chiquita no tenia na"

My mother taught me LOGIC -
"Como que porque coño, porque si!"

My mother taught me about INSPIRATION-
"Si llegas con mala nota te voy a hacer comer la chancleta"

My Mother taught me about WISDOM-
"Tu crees que sabes todo, pedazo de mierda"

Monday, June 19, 2006

Puerto Rico Genealogy

Happy Monday folks! Back to the weekly work routine. :-P

I've recently taken up on a genealogy hobby researching my family history and family tree. Initial surnames I'm researching are Acevedo and Rivera from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Both my father and mother's family are from Aguadilla. I have been able to find a lot of information that neither one of them knew and have made some progress. Check out my page at for more information and to see other surnames I'm researching.

A good website for Puerto Rico genealogy is Searching for Our Roots by Priscilla Colon Martinez, This site is completely free and has a lot of information for all areas of Puerto Rico.

I've realized this is a lengthy project and it can go slowly. I've met people through discussion boards who are researching the same surnames and areas and even met a cousin of my mother, but the search is never ending! If you plan to start researching your family tree and history, be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort. Needless to say, with the new baby, I have no time for genealogy these days. Right now, if I come across something interesting, I'll look into it, but I'm not very proactive in researching. I'll get back to it someday, though. :sigh:

I'd love to hear from you if you are researching these names or if your family is from Aguadilla.

One Great Family
Trace your Origins online

Research your family history with 7 Day Family Tree!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Freestyle Music

So here I am browsing the blogs and I come across this guy who hates freestyle music! Read his post at

I can't disagree more with this guy! I love freestyle music! I wish it would come back more mainstream instead of remaining as an underground love of true freestyle fans. I'm not sure what it is about the music that makes it so great, but I love it! I know there's a lot of you out there that agree and still listen to old time favorites by Stevie B, Cynthia, Judy Torres, etc. If you're feeling me on this, let me know.

Freestyle music will never die! :) LOL

Show your love for freestyle people!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Another Bush Moment

So when will our president ever learn? He just can't stop being misunderestimated!

Check out the newest bush wrongdoing at

Also check out this site for great Bush quotes,

Cool baby product

So I'm browsing the web and came across this site that sells personalized books for children. They can make a book with each letter that spells your baby's first and last name. Your baby can have his/her very own name book! How cool is that? Especially for uncommon baby names.
Check them out!

I See Me! Personalized Children's Books


So this is the first posting on my new blog. I guess I'll start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am a new mommy! I have a beautiful 6 month old baby girl. She is a handful, but she's wonderful. I can't believe that I actually created her!

I love to dance, listening to music, hanging out with family & friends...

Recently, I took up on genealogy as a hobby. I don't have much time to keep up with it these days, but it's a work in progress. I am originally from Puerto Rico and am researching both my mother's and father's sides of the family. Both sides are from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Alright, that's it for now... :)