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Kimberly Powell

Prove Your Ancestry

By June 27, 2005

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Like most things, ethnic heritage is usually not a case of black or white. Despite outward appearances, most of us have a mix of ethnic backgrounds in our ancestry, but the forms which ask us to identify our race or ancestry don't usually include a space for percentages. What makes a person one race or another?

In a recent editorial in the Denver Post, Ernesto P. Alvarado comments on a group of professors at the University of Colorado who recently asked Ward Churchill to prove his Native-American ethnic identity and asks a tough question - "Can someone decide for you what your ethnic background is and have it listed in a government-approved roster?" Do we really have to be 100% black or white to identify ourselves as such?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty much a good old fashioned "mutt." Each of my four grandparents hails from a different country - England, France, Germany and Poland. Going back further, the mix gets even more complicated. I guess I could claim European ancestry, but I'm sure there are probably a few non-European ancestors in my family tree as well. I usually identify myself as "white" - but it's really just an easy generalization of my very complex family tree. Thank goodness all of those forms don't ask me to prove my race and ethnicity. What a waste of time that would be!
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