Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Black like me

January 15, 2007

Black like me: I went to a CIBC branch in downtown Toronto before I left for Pearson to catch my flight to London. I told the teller I needed some U.S. cash for a trip. She asked me where I was going, and I said Africa. She then told me that her great-great - or is it great-great-great? - grandfather had married a woman from Congo in the 1800s. He fell in love and wanted to marry her and bring her home with him. She wasn't a slave, but nonetheless he had to pay her family to take her away with him.

The teller didn't know she had African roots until she went in for surgery on her leg. She scarred heavily in a way that meant she might have black roots of some kind, the doctor told her, even though her skin colour and facial features were white. She asked her family members if they had black ancestors and she learned the story of her distant relatives.

I knew what she meant when she said the scarring might mean she had black roots. I got my ears pierced 10 years ago and one of them got infected. When it began to heal, a scar started to form on the lobe and grew until it formed a little ball of skin - highly annoying and embarrassing. I went to see a doctor when I was living in Toronto and he asked me if I had any black ancestors. He said this kind of scar tissue build-up was common in black people, but not in whites. He was Korean and said it was also a common occurrence in Asians. I only know of my Acadian, Welsh and Irish roots, but I've wondered about it ever since.

- Mark

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