From UUC’s Racial Justice Team

1 Response

  1. UUC on behalf of Marion says:

    Ed. note: I am entering this comment on behalf of Marion, who emailed it to me in response to the above post.

    I’ve been a pledging friend of UUC for a long time and receive the Gateway. Wanted to say I appreciate your article in the latest issue about the problem with “We Are All Immigrants.” I’m an Appalachian person who rolled all the way out here eventually. Currently I’m a member of the Westside UU Congregation, and prior to that I was a charter member of the Rainier Valley UU Congregation.

    My ethnicity is Appalachian, and racially I’m mixed. Melungeon on my mother’s side and apparently part Native on my father’s side as well. I also have a lot of European ancestry, some arriving during the 1600s through Jamestown. The Johnny-come-lately ancestors came to America in the late 1700s, mostly through Philadelphia. My traceable family tree is Appalachian going back 14 generations. One of these years I want to take the time to go down to the genealogy center at NAAM and get some help trying to find out if it’s possible to trace the African-American ancestry in my mother’s paternal line, which looks to be present, but a long time back–may have come in during the late 1600s.

    I’m an internal migrant in the U.S.; the culture here is not my native culture. In Seattle it’s taken for granted that I’m white, but in real life my Melungeon heritage and Appalachian ethnicity had profound impacts on my earlier life, back East. I overtly refused to keep my place, which is how I ended up leaving. Things are more nuanced than black and white where I grew up, and like most people there my family didn’t have much money. So in some senses it’s true that I’m an immigrant, and in other senses, not at all.

    Part of my ancestry (including my surname) is Scotch-Irish, and those people were not necessarily voluntary immigrants either. The English cleared them off their clan territories in Scotland and transported them. Some were brought to America directly, and some to Northern Ireland to reclaim farmland where the Irish had been cleared. Then 2 or 3 generations later the English cleared many Scottish families out of Ireland to put English people on the farms, and that’s when my Kee ancestor took ship for America.

    This stuff is so much more complex than most people have any notion of. It’s understandable that UUs fall into the trap of simplistic categories here, especially in a place like Seattle where white settlement is so recent and many people have living memory of relatives who were born in another country. I’m not a Euro-American and I find it laughable when people refer to me by that label. Europe, for my ancestors to which it ever applied, was a very long time ago.

    But I’m white. How white, depends on which context I’m seen in, and a very few have noticed the mixed ancestry just from taking a good look. My last naturopath here noticed it from looking at the pattern of health issues, family history, bloodwork, blood pressure and other lab results; then she took a good look and told me I had to be of Native ancestry. Yup. I just can’t know for sure which tribes. And no. I never lived on a reservation. But the life expectancy in the neighborhood where I grew up looked much the same. And so there you have it. I’m more American than apple pie.