Tuesday, August 30, 2011
After visiting the relatives I recalled, my Dad said we were going to see a side of the family, in Oakland, I had curiously never met. The woman was actually my father’s first cousin and he had not seen her in twenty years, which placed their last visit in the late fifties. Before arriving at her house, he explained that I had never met her because she had been passing for white in her adult life, and he vowed not to see her again. It seems that the last time they met, she told him to keep his distance so as not to ‘mess-up’ her good thing. It was a rare occasion to consider that my Dad’s feelings could be hurt.
Fast-forward to the day we met her and her husband, and true to his word if I did not know better I would have believed they were white. The husband, in particular, had greenish-blueish eyes that definitely had me thinking 'what the hell'. At first I kept looking at her and my Dad, wondering how he got a white ‘lady’ in his family. As the visit wore on things changed, the more she spoke about our family the blacker and blacker she sounded, until I started to see other relatives in her mannerisms and tones. At this point I no longer perceived her to be white, despite her appearance. Both she an her husband seem to 'act more black' as the visit went on. At the end they promised to stay in touch, but my Dad later said that would not happen. In his eyes, they could not ignore family for the sake of a good living denied to their real kin, and then come back so easily. Curiosity did not change his mind.
Later, when I moved to California I never looked them up and Dad never asked about them. I have not seen nor heard of them them since that meeting. I have no doubt that there are white folks (second cousins in this case) today in the Bay Area to whom I was once related, and if they knew their family background (or cared to reveal it) they could claim their substantial black heritage.
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James C. Collier
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