Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Color Am I?

For years it's bugged me when I’m required to choose the color of my ethnicity. I usually end up checking “White,” but it’s never a happy – or accurate – answer.

Few people have paler, more tan-resistant skin than I. And it's true that I’m descended from European stock – Scottish (my grandmother would have said, “Scotch”), Irish, English, and Danish. Although a cousin, who has done more research than I, says we are direct descendants of the Emperor Hadrian. She’s seen the proof; I haven’t. But my mother may be a throwback with her olive skin and dark, dark eyes. There’s nothing at all Scottish about her appearance! And she always told me, “You must have some Italian in you, since you wouldn’t be able to talk if you couldn’t use your hands.” Ends up, I might, and it’s from her dad’s side of the family!

Still, I'm all European, as far as we know.

I understand the government uses this information for statistical purposes and it’s probably necessary, but I still resent that we continue to ask this question which puts people in categories.

Why, for instance, isn’t there a “Mixed” category? I know lots of people who don’t fall neatly into any group.

What about my friend’s beautiful son and daughter? Their dad would be classified as “White” and their mother as “Asian.” What does that make them?

Or what about another friend who is herself 100% Japanese, and whose husband is mostly Japanese except for the Portuguese trader ancestor several generations back? His last name is Latin, but he's predominantly of Japanese heritage. What category does he fall into? How about his children?

What about the children of other friends whose mother is Vietnamese and whose father is European? And what about those whose ancestors came from South Africa? Does that make them “African” or “Black”?

What about some Americans, like Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, or the president? Why must they classify themselves as “Black,” when they are clearly of mixed racial heritage? Very few Americans with ancestors from Africa have inherited DNA exclusively from that source.

Besides, I have known few “Black” people whose skin could accurately be described as that color. My friends, who have ancestors originally from Africa, range in color from light beige to deep coffee.

While I am pale, my skin is light pinkish beige, not white.

My friend, Pat, actually came up with the perfect solution. Instead of the usual classifications, she suggested we could all use “Blue”. It’s the color of the blood that runs through everyone's veins. That’s a commonality which better defines who we really are.

Despite some very small differences, all human beings share about 99% of our DNA. We are more alike than different. I stopped pigeonholing people, particularly my friends, (if I ever did) a long, long time ago.

People are people, are people. Not black, or white, or brown, or yellow, or any other color we might want to use to separate them.

So the next time I’m asked to choose a label, I just might check “Other” and write in “Blue”. What do you think?


  1. Totally agree. Not only am I a mongrel from all sorts of Eurpean DNA, my grandchildren are even more interesting--with American Indian and Hispanic DNA and whatever the in-law branch brought along with them.

  2. Great Comments! But why not red rather than blue. Red describes the arterial supply that has more oxygen and energy. It also reflects more warmth than cold and you are definitely a warm person, not a cold person. Kurt Pederson

  3. Lorna, I find it interesting that your cousin claims ties to emperor Hadrian. If that is the case, then you have direct blood lines to the "gods" (small "g"). Which god would be a herculian task to find out. History dictates that when kingship was handed down to man in Sumeria, roughly 6500 years ago, the kings were the descendants of the gods who found favor with the earth women, hence demi-gods. Their descendants became the emperors of all the kingdoms of the world, eventually going to Greece and then to Rome. We all know that Hadrian's great task was building Hadrian's wall to keep the damn conquering hoards from northern Britain out. Perhaps Hadrian had a Scottish concubine hidden away and hence many generations later we have Lorna. Hail, Caesar!!!
    Cheers, Paul

  4. Kurt,
    Unfortunately, the color red was used to describe Native Americans. afraid it's a little tainted.

    It's my only potential claim to fame - I think. Well, there is my grandfather's grandfather who wa supposed to have been in line to inherit Lund Castle in Denmark. But instead, he decided to follow the Mormons to Utah.

    Larry, on the other hand, is descended from three Scottish kings, a couple of English ones, the Huguenots, including Charlemagne, etc.

    And, really, WHO CARES?

    I guess I'm really strange because I get excited about all the mixture. I'm a fan of uniqueness!