I'm Still NOT Over Slavery

I'm Still NOT Over Slavery

While walking around New York over the weekend I came to the realization that I am longing for something to help me better understand my history. I am in all honesty an African American woman that has no solid tie to an African heritage. Although I wear things to insist that I know about the mother-land and often boast about being Nigerian I am not an authentic African. I hate the fact that I do not know my own heritage and others do not see this as a big deal. People tell me all of the time that they are thankful for slavery because it saved the chosen few from a life of hardship in such a poor country. Well, Africa is a continent and I am very sure that it wasn't so poor before "others" tried to take over.

While traveling in Mexico one of my co-workers asked me where I plan on going for my first vacation and I told him Lagos, Nigeria. He then asked me what the hell would I want to go to that place for and I told him in order to better understand my roots. He said that I wasn't missing out on anything and it was dangerous over there. He mentioned that he was pure Dutch and didn't give a damn about visiting his peoples homeland because he was born in America so he is American.

I REALLY get upset deep down inside when I hear other people say that they are "pure Dutch," Italian or even Spanish. I have no clue what the hell I am and it is unfair. Why is it that they are able to know THEIR family roots and can go visit THEIR family there and learn about THEIR culture but I can not. I honestly am so disturbed by this lack of knowing that I've realized this is the reason why I mainly date African men. I hope to have that connection with Africa and African culture so that when I bring children into this world they will know more about THEIR history other than their skin tone, collored greens, and slavery.

It's a mental blockage that hinders a lot of my growth and to be honest when I talk about it in public I am told by black people that I am better off being American and Africans don't claim us anyway. People mention the fact that natural born Africans would almost kill to trade places with me but I think they are only speaking of opportunities within America and not the ability to escape their heritage. I know that I am fortunate to be born in the land of the free but how free am I when I have no clue who I really am.

I can compare not knowing my true heritage to being adopted. Wouldn't you like to know who your REAL parents are and figure out what makes them special so you can in turn figure out what makes you special. That is how I feel when I think about African culture. I've been told by so many that I look Nigerian and at the age of 30 I adopted a Nigerian name which is "Jesutise Lolade" in hopes of gaining a better understanding of my possible heritage. Yet, I've been called a pretender and that real Africans would be utterly offended if they knew that I was "false-flagging."

What can I REALLY gain from knowing the truth about my ancestry other than a little more confidence and certainty. It is a shame that people are so brain washed by the temptation to blend in with this American fantasy of the melting pot that they are willing to forget where their people came from in order for them to get somewhere. I have no-room to forget because the furthest my history goes is on a plantation in Arkansas owned by a Scottish family where my Great grandmother (x5) in 1833 was born fatherless to a mulatto woman named Ruth.

I want the truth and I can not help that this subject brings me to tears whenever I think about it. I have NO PRIDE in saying that I am a black girl from the west side of Chicago. In my mind that makes me fell like less of a person because nothing originated from the place that I speak of. There is nothing culturaly enriching about it other than the increasing crime rate but some of my friends can go to Nigeria, Mexico and even Canada to celebrate their heritage. I feel like less of a person and I can not help that I am STILL NOT OVER SLAVERY!

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  • Maybe I should've said mustard greens instead.

  • I think it is important to know your heritage. In turn, you can honor your roots by adopting traditions of that culture. Not necessarily the watered down-Americanized traditions but true enriching traditions. You are not alone in your feelings. There are millions more like you wanting to know themselves and where they truly derive from. That desire alone is necessary to take that journey. Your friend was right about Nigeria. I was warned by my Nigerian fraternity brother that certain areas are not safe for Americans and women especially at night. Be sure to have a concious guide and companion to go with you. Peace and prosperity on your journey.

  • When my friends tell me they're not over slavery, I ask them, Why would you be? You're doing the right thing by letting yourself feel your anger and frustration--it hurts, but it keeps you human.

  • I'm glad you expressed this. I don't really think about it too much, but it is a thought that's lingering under the surface and makes itself known from time to time. A friend and I were just talking over the weekend about what it means to be a "black girl" (particularly in the eyes of others) and the image isn't at all pretty. There is nothing culturally rich about being one if you let the Internet tell it; we are just sexual objects. I really hope you (and all of us) can tap into this missing connection.

  • All of the feelings you've expressed today are legitimate. But don't allow those feelings to turn to bitterness. I'm very interested in having my DNA tested for information on my family's ancestral origins. You might want to look into this as well. It could, in time, provide many answers about you heritage. Just a suggestion. I haven't actually paid for a DNA test, but it is on my list of things I plan to do soon.

  • I can't believe anyone would celebrate being Canadian. I just can't do it.

  • Interesting post. I know a portion of my family history as Guyanese and the other as African American. I find myself filled with pride in part because BOTH sides continually have family reunions and continue to meet and discuss our lives and history in THIS country.

    I am proud of that and although there is a historical tie that I can't connect to as an African American (with ancestors that were slaves) and although I am unsure if I have Ghanaian ancestry or Nigerian (although I've been told that I have Ghanaian features). I am proud and I am over slavery in that sense. America has such a frayed history.

    I definitely acknowledge and see the plight of countless blacks in this country and the African Diaspora with regards to issues like being a lighter skinned or darker skinned individual- which is ridiculous, but I can honestly say that I seek out other ways to have a cultural tie, to not feel a sense of emptiness, while applauding the rich culture and history formed post slavery in this country. Interesting Post.

  • I stumbled upon your post by accident while researching Fortune 500 companies with ties to slavery. I am glad I did, as I found your candor both brave and interesting. My following comments are just based upon my family history and experiences. In full disclosure, I am a very white, very red-haired, very short woman from Oklahoma and, in no way, equate my struggles with "Who I Am" with yours.
    Even before I got to your paragraph about adoption, I was relating to it. After that, I really did, although I know that wasn't your exact intention. You see, my father was adopted at birth. Not long after I was born, his birth mother found him. She is a rather tall, strikingly beautiful woman (two things I sadly did not inherit) with red hair (the one thing I did). She was 17 when she had my dad and his father was a much older, recently divorced man. He was also Jewish. By the time she found my dad, his biological father had grandchildren and I think he was kind of nervous about what meeting us and telling his wife and children about our existence would mean to his family. He met my dad a few times, although I never got the chance. What little I know about that family history came from what he told my dad and then the research I have done past that in my own.
    He was born in 1918, exactly 40 years before my dad, and spent his early teenage years in the Dachau Concentration Camp. His mother died in Aushwitz. I don't know what or if anything happened to his father. In the interest of keeping this comment short, I will end there.
    On the other side of my family, my mother's great grandmother was full blood Arapaho. Both because her family's oral history has been kept alive through her descendants and the location of where I live, I do have quite a bit of access to that part of my lineage. And even though her son is the grandfather who raised my mother and was always a part of my life, I find myself drawn more to find out about the Jewish paternal grandfather who desperately wanted my father put up for adoption to protect the secrecy of his affair with a much younger woman. I have so many times wondered why I am fixated on it, especially since the people who adopted my dad, my REAL grandparents, have been so wonderful to me. The only thing I can come up with is that it isn't him, my biological grandfather, that I want to grab onto, but the generations of people before him. I don't feel like it was his right to grant or deny me that history and I am sure his ancestor would agree. His mother met none of her grandchildren, not my biological grandfather's "legitimate" daughters or his "illegitimate" son. And I am certain she would have loved to hold my babies and tell them of her family as much as she would great-children from her other heirs.
    All that said, I want to reiterate that I am in no way comparing you and your family's experience to mine. I fully know the great likelihood that parts of my family tree could intersect with yours and not in way that I am at all proud of. But, I also understand the feeling of being something and, at the exact same time, not being something. I am always nervous telling people I am Jewish, not because I am not proud of it, but because I know feel that in spite of my genetic history that I am not Jewish, that because my dad was given up for adoption that my great-grandmother's death at Nazi hands is not my heritage.
    When I rarely do say I am Jewish, I always get a funny look. I always try to stress that I do not mean that in religion, but just a note to my genetics. Regardless of who I say it to, I get the feeling that "that" is not mine to claim. I find it interesting that I do not get that same reaction when I mention the Dutch, Irish and Arapaho lineage from my mother or even the Swedish lineage from my biological grandmother. In fact, I have talked before about my dad's (adopted) mother's German great-grandmother and no one seems to have a problem in the world with me putting a German lullaby that she sang to my grandmother in my children's baby books. To society, I can claim that lineage.
    But, claiming my Jewishness (I say that instead of Judaism because I am not claiming the religion) always seems to be questioned. One story in particular comes to mind. Not long after my husband and I had our first child, I told one of his uncle's my father's story. His uncle reacted first by telling me that he "wouldn't be telling people I was a Heeb."
    He then went on to give me a very detailed explanation as to how I am not Jewish anyways. After his little tirade, I responded very simply, "Well, I bet Hitler wouldn't have agreed."

  • Also, I apologize for the very lengthy comment and following it up with another.
    I just wanted to add that you are exactly right in feeling at odds with the statement that you should be thankful that you are lucky enough to be the descendent of slaves to be an American now. Without question, the millions starving in the horn of Africa would trade places with you or ANY American, regardless of race, creed or nationality, right now. But that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that extreme drought and extreme war and extreme disease has put millions of defenseless mothers in a position of deciding if they will venture out for water, knowing they risk being caught in the crossfires of the world's first documented water war, or not going out and letting their children become dehydrated or starve to death. They would most definitely trade you houses and location and the food in your cabinet, not their culture. I think it is also important to note that evidence shows the area of the world that will be most adversely affected by global warming be the horn of Africa, a particularly tragic case of injustice because most its citizens' only carbon emissions come from the stoves they use to cook their little food or a few cigarettes.

  • Thank all of you so much for your comments. Ive learned alot reading them and feel encouraged!

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