I've had some thoughts lately that I wanted to get out, so I hope I can be coherent.
I was in the supermarket checkout line a few weeks ago, and I had purchased the fixings for home-made spaghetti sauce. The checker, a young black man, commented that he loved Italian food. I concurred, and noted that my family came from Italy, and I learned a lot from my Grandmother.
It hit me. I can talk about Italian food and traditions that go back a ways, and cite the village where my ancestors got their family name, and go to my mother's side of the family and follow back through their traditions. Well, that young man could too, but at some point there probably was a disconnect that's hard to bridge. Over the fold for more detail.
First, two contradictory thoughts. To some extent, your background, your family history, it's just something that other people did. You create your own life, partly from your choices, and partly from your circumstances. You may have antecedents who you abhor, or ones you adore, but they are not you. On the other hand, It's interesting to have a sense of history, and pride in your origins. I think that's a very normal human urge.
I don't know that particular young man's history, but I would hope and expect that he has some family lore that makes him proud, and traditions passed through the generations including family stories, and yes, recipes. But at some point a part of his family was (probably) forcibly removed from their country, their tribe, their identity, and their history. I can say that my father's family came from the Marche region, from the towns of Ostra and Monterado. He may not have that kind of history.
See, that made me think outside of my Eurocentric awareness, and try to understand that difference. I have quite a few friendly acquaintances at work who are black, but it seems an intrusion to ask for their point of view on this kind of subject, so I haven't done so, but I would like to have a better take on it.
Oddly, that brought me to some recent technology. I had my DNA sequenced recently out of curiosity. I found some interesting stuff, ethnic origins that I didn't know about, including an Arabian connection, some genes that may have come from Pakistan, and other oddities. I started thinking, maybe as these databases become more widespread and sophisticated, people will be able to penetrate that divide, and find some of their African heritage more specifically, and get a sense of place and origin that they may not have now.
Please, understand. I don't think that anyone needs that kind of information to make them whole, or better, or that not knowing, or even wanting to know these things makes any difference in our self worth. All that happened is that I realized that there was a part of life that might just be a bit different, and that I didn't have an emotional understanding of that difference. What do you all think?