"Eric, it's not that hard. You're mixed race. You can call yourself Latinx. Or native american, if you really wanted to. But you present as white and hispanic. Getting any more complicated that feels too much like an example of white privilege: you shouldn't say that you're 1% Bantu — even if you are! — because that just feels too much like a white person trying too hard to point out your non-white characteristics."
I was asked yesterday whether I consider myself white or non-white. The context makes sense; at Animal Charity Evaluators we are doing a session on Representativeness, Equity, and Inclusion later today where statements will be made that will make this query relevant. But it still took me off guard. What do I consider myself?
I guess I'll start with my broad family facts. My father immigrated from Bolivia, so I'm half Bolivian. My mother had an Italian parent and an English parent, though you have to trace back a few generations to get to the old country for them. So I'm 25% Italian and 25% English. In short: I'm white and hispanic. (Or so I've been saying for much of my life.)
|Eric in the early 1980s.|
I experienced racism in Mobile, Alabama, back then, but it wasn't ever really something that affected me all that much, possibly because I spoke with what my fellow Southerners thought of as an "educated" accent. (Possibly it is just because I bothered with enunciation as a child.) I thought of myself as white throughout my school days, possibly just because that was the default for me, and possibly because I spent most of my family time with my mother's side of the family, which was all white. It wasn't until I reached college when a casual conversation about whiteness was interrupted by a hispanic friend of mine, who said: "wait — what do you think you are?" I remember stopping short, not fully understanding his question, when he continued: "You're not white; you're hispanic."
|See full results.|
My self-conception of white never really wavered, mostly because figuring out what race I should call myself didn't factor into anything I considered useful at the time. There were a few oddities over the years. One girl I dated for a few months was extra scared of showing me to her parents; this turned out to be because her father was a member of the KKK and he screamed at me for defiling his daughter when I finally met him in the emergency room ICU where he had just been admitted a few hours earlier. But, on the whole, the fact of my race never really came up explicitly among people I purposefully interacted with, and, if it did come up implicitly, I never noticed because I didn't really care.
Now, however, I have been learning a lot about racial equity, how I can be an ally, and the delicate balance between implementing a safe space and ensuring that there is a commitment to the enlightenment ideals of free thought and open discussion, even when it comes to uncomfortable issues. In the midst of all this, I've had a DNA ethnicity test done that explicitly shows the various percentages of each of my many ethnicities. And I've been asked: Do I consider myself white or non-white? The truth is: I don't know anymore.
|Ruperto Herboso & René Barrientos|
Mercado Fidel Aranibar
Cochabamba, Bolivia; 1966
|Wyche Family Arms|
On ancestry.com, I can trace many such lines.
- Sir Richard Jones, born 1570 in Denbigh, Wales, is my 9th great grandfather. He was a knight serving under Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, who was also the Lord of Denbigh.
- George Wyche, born 1680 in Surry County, Virginia, is my 7th great-grandfather. He owned the area surrounding the entirety of Beaver Pond Creek in Clarksville, VA; it is now nothing but forest with dirt roads so small that Google Maps' street view hasn't recorded it yet. He also controlled a fifth of the land surrounding Fountain Creek in Brunswick County, VA; it was given to him by Henry H. Cook, Sr., a major planter and initial settler of Brunswick County.
John Matthew Goodwin and Elizabeth Moore, born 1646 in London, England, and 1655 in Virginia respectively, are my 8th great grandparents. When John Goodwin's grandfather Peter died in 1661, John (at the age of 15!) received two slaves, Tom and Bess as part of his inheritance. Meanwhile Elizabeth Moore's grandfather John Moore (b. 1584) came to Virginia and patented land that stayed in the family for hundreds of years until 1942, when it was sold to the US Government. The Moore House, built much later, was where General Cornwallis surrendered at the Siege of Yorktown.
The Moore House
- Mary Ann Matthews, my 9th great grandmother born 1602 in England, led quite an adventurous life.
- She traveled to America as an 18 year old newlywed on the Chesapeake Colony Ship Francis Bonaventure in August 1620 with her husband, John Price. It took years for them to settle, finally doing so when she was 21 in the Neck of Land in Charles City, "upriver from Jamestown close to the falls". Unlike neighboring communities that had outbreaks of disease and repeated tensions with the Native Americans, the small Neck of Land area was "a hamlet of healthy married families whose concerns were sex, land, and status". Neck of Land is now known as Meadowville, and the area where they lived is now an upscale residential housing area. They had three children.
- Around 1630, John Price had died and Ann remarried, this time to Robert Hallom, who had also came to America on the Francis Bonaventure from England. Unlike John, who had patented land for the King, Robert was a manservant in the Boyse household. When Ann and Robert married, they lived on Ann's money and 1000 acres of land she still controlled after John's death. When Robert died in 1638, the land was divided with 1000 acres to Ann and 150 acres to the children of Ann's first marriage with John, with none going to the three children of Ann and Robert, even though Robert Hallom did have a headright of his own. My understanding is that this was very unusual (at the time) legally speaking. Robert and Ann's female children were married off and their male child was apprenticed to a salter.
- In 1640, Ann remarried a third time, this time to Daniel Llewellyn, who was previously claimed as headright from Captain William Perry. After she remarried, Robert Hallom's surviving family in England asked her if Daniel could take on the responsibility of managing the Hallom's interests in America. He did so, and ended up controlling 17 headrights, including 852 acres of his own in addition to the ones owned by Robert and Frances Hallom in England. The children of Daniel and Ann are where the line continues up to me.
|Don Ruperto Herboso|
My Paternal Grandfather
|Herboso Island, Basque Country, Spain|