But remember, it's just a social construct
0 comment Wednesday, September 3, 2014 |
Here is another one of those silly stories about the family trees of the various candidates, with the spin being that we are all, again, just cousins. Pay no attention to the fact that Obama has Kenyan ancestry; he is the cousin of many prominent white folks, past and present, including even some movie idols. Isn't that wonderful? Yes, we are all one big, happy family, and the differences are only skin deep.
''Clinton is related to [Brad] Pitt's girlfriend, Angelina Jolie.
Researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society found some remarkable family connections for the three presidential candidates � Democratic rivals Obama and Clinton, and Republican John McCain.
Clinton, who is of French-Canadian descent on her mother's side, is also a distant cousin of singers Madonna, Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette. Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, can call six U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush, his cousins. McCain is a sixth cousin of first lady Laura Bush.
Genealogist Christopher Child said that while the candidates often focus on pointing out differences between them, their ancestry shows they are more alike than they think.
"It shows that lots of different people can be related, people you wouldn't necessarily expect," Child said.
Obama has a prolific presidential lineage that features Democrats and Republicans. His distant cousins include President George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman and James Madison. Other Obama cousins include Vice President Dick Cheney, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Civil War General Robert E. Lee.''
[Emphasis mine]
Well, they've already claimed Jefferson Davis as one of Obama's kin, now Robert E. Lee himself is said to be just a cousin of Barack Hussein. Do you think there is any agenda at work here?
Personally I would like to see the actual family trees posted online, so that we can examine them and judge their accuracy for ourselves, or, in the case of people with genealogical experience, check the sources and the details of each lineage to see whether they line up with established facts. So far, it's just the word of a couple of genealogists whose credentials are unknown to the vast reading public.
I remember that during the last election, I read a similar article about how Bush and Kerry were kin, being distant cousins via their New England colonial ancestry. Not so coincidentally, considering my own Massachusetts colonial ancestry, I learned via that article that Kerry is one of my many distant cousins through our common Bulkeley ancestors. Another article established that Howard Dean was a distant cousin to both of them I believe, via the same ancestral line, and hence he too would be kin to me. But this is not surprising considering that there were something like 21,000 original Puritan settlers in New England and they formed the basis of the population of the New England states until the great wave of immigration in the mid-19th century. So most of those with colonial New England stock are related, however distantly. I suspect that some of you who have New England origins would also be related to me and of course to Kerry, Dean, et al.
Similarly, people throughout the South who have colonist ancestors are descended from the original Jamestown colonists in many cases, as well as to later waves of Huguenot settlers and Germanna colonists. One of my fellow bloggers, who is linked on my blogroll, has several family connections to me via these families. Many of us who have early roots in this country are kin to each other. Of course all of us have many thousands of living cousins, most of whom will never be known to us. Genealogy was one way in which I began to be aware of how connected I am, via blood, to many, many Americans. We are truly an extended family, not just in a metaphorical sense.
It was an odd feeling to learn that a distant cousin of mine with whom I became acquainted via sharing family history had lived very near to me in a West Coast city back in the 1960s for a brief time; we lived a few blocks apart and frequented some of the same places. We might well have met and never been aware of our family connection.
But back to the candidates' genealogy: I was morbidly curious to know whether Bill Richardson, (or Bill ''Call Me Lopez" Richardson, as Tanstaafl dubs him), was kin to me, based on his one-fourth New England Yankee ancestry, but I found no connection when I researched his family tree. I can't say I was disappointed to find no connection. Likewise I found no connection to Obama's Dunham ancestry among my own ancestors.
I have learned that John Edwards may be a distant cousin to me, based on his Dillard ancestry, according to this website. How accurate the information is on the site, I don't know.
Being as heritage and kin-oriented as I am, genealogy is an interest of mine and I've found it a fascinating way to learn more about history in a very specific way as I read through old documents: public records, wills, letters, and various bits of information. It makes history much more real and personal to learn about it via our ancestors' own life experiences.
I've found that in general, people become more interested in their ancestry later in life; many of us become more interested in the past, and in our own personal origins, as we age. But some never become interested, and I think this is an attitude that is especially common in our age, as people tend to denigrate the past, and to view it as one long dark age, with our generation emerging as the pinnacle of evolution and enlightenment.
Some of the people in my own family are indifferent at best to genealogy and their roots; 'what has that got to do with me?' seems to be the attitude. And then there are the genealogical agnostics, who say ''how can you even know if any of that stuff is true?" We can know it's true if we find records and sources; family legends are often fanciful and erroneous, and much of what is online is inaccurate and must be double-checked. Some of it is patently false and unfounded. Some of the family lore is quite accurate; my grandmother asserted she had a lot of Welsh ancestry, and research proved this true. Some of the older generations carefully preserved oral knowledge of our forebears, and there was a great deal of careful record-keeping which has come to light. So the agnostics are wrong to say that it's all just fable or conjecture.
However, I suspect much of this business about how Obama is a cousin to many presidents and celebrities is a further effort to make him seem all-American and well-connected. And considering that there is an obvious political agenda at work, I take these 'facts' about his ancestry with a copious helping of salt.
And speaking of ancestry, I have noticed a very common complaint among 'conservatives' about Obama is that he identifies as black. They keep asking why he doesn't consider himself white, considering his white mother. I find this a curious question: if any of us saw Obama on the street, and he was a stranger to us, would we consider him white, or would we judge him as black or ''African-American'' at a glance? I would say the latter. We might think he had some non-African ancestry but then again so do many blacks in this country, and they are not any the less black, as far as their identification is concerned. They tend to identify as black and we identify them as such.
So why are all the 'conservatives' distressed because Obama does not call himself white, or mixed?
I've heard the same lament from the 'colorblind conservatives' about actress Halle Berry; ''why does she call herself black, when she's got white blood'?
I say it's because the black genes tend to be dominant, both in the phenotype, the outward appearance, and in the behavior. I think the 'colorblind conservatives' are being disingenuous to complain because Obama or Halle Berry call themselves black. I've known people much lighter in complexion and much less African in appearance who called themselves African-American. Obama is black, in appearance and in attitude. It does not matter that he 'sounds' white or speaks standard American English like an educated man. He seems to consider himself black and that is what matters. Obviously, like most half-and-half people, he considers himself as belonging to the minority half, and not to the white side. This is just the dynamic of our minority-obsessed society. There are benefits that accrue to people of minority heritage, especially to blacks, who are the elite among victim groups. Hispanics will soon give them a run for their money, literally, as Hispanics are now more numerous and are becoming seen as the 'new and improved' minority group for the 21st century; they are growing in numbers and in clout, and the business interests and politicians are greedy for the favor of Hispanics. In any case, nobody of mixed parentage sees much advantage in identifying with whitey; it's so much cooler and so much more chic and so much more profitable to be one of the exalted 'oppressed' people.
So no, regardless of who is related to whom, Obama is identified the exotic 'other', and not just another member of the big old American family.

Labels: , , , ,