Ben Capaul, WI. My ancestors were Swiss immigrants to Wisconsin in the 1920’s. I’m as white as you can get. My 80 year old grandparents love my black girlfriend. But I get dirty looks and hushed whispers at her all black family gatherings. I always worry that black people will somehow see me as a […]
Dave Hall, Brooklyn, NY. I get my name from my Yankee (English-American) father, whose ancestors arrived in Boston in 1630 but I get my complexion from my Arab-American mother. People do a double take when they first meet me after only hearing my voice on the phone. And new friends quickly learn that I am […]
Evan Sorem, San Diego, CA. I am a human being. I have lived nearly all my life in California. My ancestors have lived in California, Illinois, Wyoming, Utah, Tennessee, Virginia, Norway, France, Italy, England, the Netherlands and who knows where else. So, people view me as a “white” person. In my 40’s, I have learned […]
Erin C. Mitchell Plattsburgh, NY
Julie Thi Underhill, Berkeley, CA.
R.M. Lutz, East Lansing, MI. My color does not define me. Why should being white make me feel guilty? I didn’t want slavery. I didn’t want Jim Crow. I didn’t ask to be born into a family that is upper middle class. But somehow, people blame me like it’s my fault. Like I wanted to […]
Bruce Hawkins, Northampton, MA. That doesn’t make me guilty, it makes me responsible. Prison is the new slavery, and the Drug War is modern slave-catching.
Melissa U., Charlotte, NC. My Taino people would love me, from my plump lips to my curly hair. My African people would love me from the rhythm in my hips to the powerful thoughts in my mind. My Spanish people, they might deny me, but I can’t deny them. They are in my language, they […]
Gabrielle Durrett, Tucson, AZ. As a white person, I frequently feel white guilt whenever the topics of slavery and racism come up. For ages, I felt like I had to come up with excuses of why I shouldn’t feel guilty, the most prominent of which was: “Those were my ancestors, not me.” Well, I still […]
Jessica Tressa, Wilkes Barre, PA. I am white, I was born this way and did not get to choose. I am just an average girl no different from anyone else on this planet. Average. So, why am I told that because white people enslaved other people that those descendants have the right to hate me […]
Annaleis Thibault, Bolton, MA. As a white, middle class american, I feel as though I owe reparations for the crimes committed by my ancestors.
Alison Bailey, Bloomington, IL. Yes. I’ve been able to find out who my 3d greatgrandmother is until recently. She was the bastard child of Joseph C. Van Mater, or “Big Joe,” as he was called. The Van Mater family were early settlers in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Big Joe was the largest slave holder north […]
Jesse Dukes, Charlottesville, VA. This question was on my mind recently, when I wrote an article for Virginia Quarterly Review about Confederate reenactors at the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg. I don’t actually have any Confederate ancestors I’m aware of, but most of the reenactors do. All of the reenactors I talked to considered slavery to […]
Daniel Escalante, Taos, NM. These six words are coming from a person of color to a white person who says, “I feel guilty about what my ancestors did to create racist institutions and systems. ” And, I feel that you blame me for what they did”.
Denise Pierce, Sterling, VA. My grandmother who was born in NC in 1901 and lived to be 105 tried to instill in me a love for my land-owning ancestors who also owned slaves. At 99 she was still quoting from the KKK playbook that taught slaves were lucky to have been brought to America and […]
Micaela Laurelville, OH My privilege is always at the forefront of my mind. I cry in history class and while reading certain historical books. How does one make up for the past crimes of people that I can’t help but perceive as my ancestors?
Anthony Turoczy, Manassas, VA. My Great-grandparents came to America in 1904 from Hungary. They worked in the mines during the day and went to school at night to learn how to speak, read and write English. Don’t blame others for your bad choices; work hard and make something of yourself.
Robin Greeley St. Louis, MO This is what my relatives said to me at a family reunion in the 1950s.They were afraid that if it was known that Grandma was Choctaw, she could be sent to a reservation – something that was done in those days. In Pueblo, Colorado, the hatred and direct discrimination of […]
Jen Rogers Fresno, CA I am so sick of people thinking that I owe them or their race something. My ancestors made it on their own without a handout why do you need one.
Gary Burkholder San Antonio, TX
Tracy Harris Washington, DC
Marion Reid Kee Redmond, WA Some of my ancestors went through a lot so that I could be “white” and not have to know about them as African, Native American, Eastern Mediterranean. Others who were considered white may not have been free. Some of my Celtic ancestors were forcibly resettled by the English. Others were […]
Gina Dabbah, Seaside, CA. The opinion of our ancestors left a battle waging hard and strong. This battle has spilt blood, split families, friends, and communities. And for what? For one person to feel superior over another by using a characteristic, a pigment of our gene pool, a sad excuse to shun another. This is […]
Joelin Nordine Sacramento, CA
Janie Hill Hatton, Milwaukee, WI First National Principal of the Year 1994 I value this project and hope it will prompt conversations to unite the earth.
Danielle Silver Forest Park, OH A white guy I liked told me this. I am white( German, Irish, Penn. Dutch), Hispanic, Native American. I used to get asked where I was from in school. I said, “I’m an American.” My ancestors have been here for generations. My full brother has never been asked where he […]
Solveig Whittle Woodinville, WA In 1992 I moved to Seattle and began working at a new job. The first week I saw in the company email roster that someone else had the same last name as I did. I dialed his extension and introduced myself as a new employee. My last name is not common […]
Grant Hayter-Menzies Canada The names I remember every day are those of the 45 black people held in bondage by my maternal ancestors from 1670s Boston down to antebellum Louisiana.
Jimmie Jones Washington DC My father spent 30 years preserving the genealogy of our family through three generations. My early Summers were spent recording voices, taking pictures, tracing gravestones and memorizing family trees into three generations. His book and his legacy led me to the plantation where I met ancestors, reclaimed cotton, cried into soil […]
Sonya Williams, Baltimore, MD. I grew up in a unique area of North Carolina in what is referred to as a ti-racial community. My Indian family are the Cheroenhaka Nottoway and Meherrin Indians of Southeast, VA & North Eastern, NC. When I went to college, during a lecture in my anthropology class, the professor was […]
Feldon Starns, Summerville, SC. I come from a lower middle class family. I was the first to graduate collage in my family. I worked full time at menial jobs and paid for everything myself. No loans, grants, scholarships, or aid. Nothing was given to me. If working inside old fuel tanks in a shipyard is […]
Cindy Hutchison Russell Guadalajara, Mexico Took a graduate course in circum Atlantic slavery – did my own family research – discovered that my direct ancestors in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee – were slave owners – as were hundreds of small farm owners and dirt farmers in the 1700’s and 1800’s…
Jane Portland, ME Oppression must stay in the past. I’m sorry.
Katherine L Rife Philadelphia, PA
Martha DeWolfe Huntsville, AL Some of my ancestors were so evil a part of the family broke away and went to Canada to get away from them! Lucky for me, the ones who left were in my direct line…but because of the pirates’ horrible deeds, people all over the world are related to me within […]
R.Henry Goins San Francisco, CA I am a genealogist. I have been researching my North Carolina family for about ten years now. I found my great grandfather’s family in some notes held at the North Carolina Archives. The family lived in Belews Creek and Sauratown. Sauratown sounds like sorrow. I found a ledger with the […]
Carson Clay Washington, DC
Noah McDonald Warren, PA It’s time to get over it! Before you point your finger at me, and call me a racist! Don’t forget there are three of your own pointing back at you! I won’t be held responsible for my ancestors actions! Educate yourself! Look at history. Every race, religion, and creed has been […]
Margaret Angela Thomas Chatsworth, GA I’m the descendant of a runaway slave who passed as Latin and was beaten to death by a slavecatcher, other runaways who moved to Indian Territories to pass for Cherokee, and a trafficked Chinese woman. I look Scotch-Irish and have a huge red vascular birthmark. I live with color bigotry […]
Lindsey Lovel Columbus, OH Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation
J. Richard Barajas, Director of Admissions College of Pharmacy, University of Iowa I feel the meaning changes based on the comma placement.
High School student Great Falls, VA