Ancestry is rich ground for all of us. That’s what we’re talking about last week and next week on the podcast, and this is the bridge.
I look back to my ancestors and feel strength, pride, and legacy. But by the historical measure of the system—a system we now see as profoundly unbalanced and broken, and not just for People of Color — Tim could look back and also feel strength, pride, and legacy. It all depends on the lens. We could regard the railroad as a monumental achievement or a people-vanishing disaster. Both are true.
Ancestry is a pair: we each have our collective and our individuals. And oh, boy — can it ever be complicated, no matter who you are (and who you were). You could say it’s easy for me to look to my ancestors as a collective and feel the nobility of the oppressed. But if I’m not careful, the weight of that nobility can play tricks on me — just as the weight of Tim’s could paralyze him, too. My ancestors did their work, and as their descendant, I want to make it worth their while. Tim’s ancestors did their work and so for him, he might feel like he has to undo it. Heavy, huh?
The blast radius of colonialism is fraught, especially in our shared work of re-engineering systems for a more equitable world. But we have work to do. And our shared work begins by acknowledging the impact on us both — distinct, and rooted in different ways. We’ve both felt the gravity of the perpetrations and revelations of our ancestors. Some were oppressed, and some were oppressors. Some were dysfunctional as individuals, or perpetrators in individual ways for all kinds of reasons. For both of us, it’s a mix. The impacts are different, but we both feel them.
One thing we’re all well-served to remember: no matter where you came from or how you came up, our ancestry is complicated. And we are all still feeling the reverberations of it.
Tim’s episode was last week, and mine is next week. When you listen, try to hold the complexity of both realities without dismissing either. And share your thoughts as you reflect — we’d love to hear where you are in your own reckoning and lineage.
Ancestry is rich ground. Let’s explore it together.