Gyasi Ross: Native Americans and African Americans share ties

A Comanche and African-American family in Oklahoma. Photo from Sam DeVenney via National Museum of the American Indian

Gyasi Ross explores the ties between Native Americans and African Americans:
I literally didn’t realize I was a quarter black (actually a bit less than a quarter, but I’ll claim a quarter for easy math) until I was almost 13. My (almost) half-black dad really didn’t look stereotypically “black.” He looked Hispanic or maybe even Middle-Eastern—handsome dude with long wavy hair, brown skin and he had the coolest mustache. Hey, it was the 80s!

Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation (and then later on the Nisqually and Suquamish Reservations, as well as urban areas), I was a dusty rez kid just like the other dusty rez kids. I didn’t really get treated differently or even know that I was part black—at least I never really noticed. I always identified as simply “Native” because I was raised by a full-blooded Native, single mom—but when I actually found out, I was overjoyed!! “Heck, that means I’m a little bit like Michael Jackson!!”

It was never really an issue.

In hindsight, I realize that I (probably fortunately) missed out on some of the complicated and ugly stuff that sometimes happens to Natives with black ancestry. Colonization is complicated, and in the same way that even black folks have been convinced that other black people are inherently dangerous—hence the disgusting amount of black-on-black crime—many Native people seemingly have bought that lie and sometimes given into ugly racist attitudes toward black folks (to wit, the Cherokee Nation with the Freedmen racism).

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Black History Month, Indian-Style: Natives and Black Folks in This Together Since 1492 (Indian Country Today 2/18)

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