April 2, 2012, - 3:44 pm
Growing up in a Black neighborhood, graduating from a majority Black high school, and living in a Black city, if only I had a dime for every time someone Black told me they were “part Cherokee” (or some other Indian tribe). But a Black ancestry and genetics expert says most Black claims of being part Indian just aren’t borne out in DNA testing. No, you are not a Navajo princess.
I’m sure you remember the self-important Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. He’s the race-baiter who whined ad nauseam about his arrest by the Cambridge police and got Barack Obama to stick his nose in it. I don’t like the guy or his divisive race-based politics. But I gotta give him credit for having the guts to tell the truth about a common myth among Black Americans, something he’s proven to be false in genetic tests he conducts for his Palestinian Broadcasting System show, “Finding Your Roots.” And for showing a form of racial resentment: that many Blacks are disappointed when they learn how much White European blood they have (including Cory Booker, the New Jersey Mayor who recently cuddled up to Muslims and attacked the NYPD for conducting legitimate terrorism investigations that saved American lives).
Mr. Gates breaks down each of his guests’ racial makeup into a simple pie chart. In an episode . . ., Newark Mayor Cory Booker discovers he is 47% African, 45% European, and 7% Asian or Native American.
Mr. Gates says that reveal “always gets an emotional response, positively or negatively.” For example, African-American guests are often surprised at how much European blood they carry and their lack of significant Native American ancestry. “It’s the biggest myth in African-American genealogy: ‘My great grandmother was a Cherokee princess,’ ” he says, adding, “The average slave and the average Native American didn’t even see each other, which makes it very hard to mate.”
Yup, you’re just another White person like me, not someone whose ancestors wore cool turquoise squash blossoms and used arrowheads in battle.
I understand the psychological need to think you came from some exotic people to feel special. It’s a stark sign of insecurity and an inferiority complex. Sadly, in our “I need to feel special” culture–where self-esteem has been unduly made into a premium–people are more about what they are and from whom they came, instead of what kind of persons they are and what they, personally, have achieved and contributed to this world.
And it’s not unique to Black people. In college, a woman I grew up with and with whom I went to a Jewish day school became my roommate for a year. I laughed and rolled my eyes when I learned that people around campus referred to this daughter of Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivors as “The Countess.” She’d told fellow students throughout the University of Michigan that she was royalty and a countess, a complete fabrication. (Jews were not allowed to become European royalty (who were almost universally Catholic)–just the victims of their pogroms, blood libels, and persecution) I guess it wasn’t enough that she was the daughter of people who’d miraculously survived a massive genocide or that she, herself, was a junior Olympic champion. She needed to feel some weird artificial blueblood pedigreed superiority. This phony is now a medical doctor, and I wonder–now that she has the “Doctor” title–if she’s given up her false title of prestige.
But that’s the way it is in a society focused solely on fame at any cost, rather than personal contributions, achievements, and accomplishments.
I’m proud of where I came from–poor Jews from Poland who survived anti-Semitic persecution to come to America and make something of themselves–and who I am. People who aren’t proud of tihs are the ones who feel the need to create this type of faux-exoticism to feel important. It’s not about where you came from. It’s about what you do with it and, more relevant, where you are going.
Frankly, I’m more impressed when someone does something of note and doesn’t have kids out of wedlock that they’ve dumped on society, than whether or not their great-great-grandfather allegedly wore feathers and beaded moccasins.
Despite what I think of him, I’m glad Dr. Gates had the decency and honesty to call out this myth.
Tags: African Americans, American Indians, ancestry genealogy, Blacks, Cory Booker, DNA, DNA test, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., faux-exoticism, Few Blacks Have Indian DNA, Few Blacks Have Native American DNA, Finding Your Roots, Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Henry Louis Gates Jr., myths, Native Americans, Neward Mayor, PBS, race, race myths, Skip Gates