Sorry to all of you who may have looked for a posting from me last week. I was on the road and with inconsistent access to the Internet and to my other tools. I apologize for the disruption. I’ll save my blog posting on all things related to baseball for a later date.
Today’s St. Patrick’s Day, which for many Americans who aren’t vehemently Irish is a day of alcoholic celebration. At least it’s viewed that way, given all of the beer and alcohol commercials that pop up in the weeks leading up to this day. For many other Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is the ultimate expression of Irish heritage in the US and around the world, a celebration of ethnic pride and cultural endurance. St. Patrick, of course, was the apostle who spread Christianity throughout Ireland at the end of the Roman age. So there is much to celebrate for many around the world who are and aren’t Irish about the legacy of a culture and a people who’ve faced numerous hardships and overcome them despite considerable odds.
As for me, I’m Irish, too, at least in part. You don’t get a last name like Collins by accident. Somewhere in the past, before my late grandfather Fucius Collins (1899-1988) was born in rural central Georgia, some Irish — or more likely, Scotch-Irish — genes mixed with our primarily West African gene pool to create the interest range of diversity that is the extended Collins family. My grandfather’s skin and hair made him what we still call light-skinned in this country, and at least one of my aunt’s was nearly as light as he was. My father Jimme’s at the opposite end of the spectrum, and with the exception of his forehead, is as typically Black looking as anyone else who is Black in this country. Proving once again that looking at someone by itself is hardly enough to prove their ancestry or background.
On my mother’s side, the Gill side, it is said that my great-great grandmother (born 1880, died in ’76, and never got to meet) was half-Choctaw and half-Irish, growing up in Indian Territory before the Oklahoma rush of 1889 and the 1890s. She was my grandmother Beulah’s grandmother. And my grandmother does have features that are strikingly similar to Choctaw, not to mention that she is a dark-skinned Black. I’m less certain of my great-great grandmother’s exact ancestry, but she was obviously bi- or even triracial. In any case, I don’t doubt that she was somehow part-Irish or part-Scotch-Irish.
All of that says to me that I’m at least 1/20 Irish and three to five percent Native American. What does this mean in terms of my everyday existence? Not much. It’s not like most Whites in this country understand the difference between genetics and phenotype, care about multiple identities unless a person is of immediate biracial ancestry, or can see past skin complexion. But it does give me the sense that for all of the crap around race in this country, we are all related to each other, whether we are willing to admit this or not. That colorblindness in terms of race or ethnicity, if it does exist in this country, exists because many Americans are blinded by color and diversity.
Ultimately, my own multiracial heritage gives me reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in DC or to visit Oklahoma, or even to go to Ireland if I so choose. I for one plan to acknowledge my Irish heritage today by playing a bit of U2 and doing a jig. Beer, whiskey and green food dye will not be involved.