Culturally black and racially human


I do not know where I got the above phrase; perhaps, from the beleaguered Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, chastised by members of her own family for appearing and insinuating that she was of African-American descent when in fact her heritage comes from Czech, German, and Swedish lines, definitely Caucasian. Consequently, due to furor, she resigned as the executive director of the local NAACP office.

It was clear in the later pronouncements of MLK, Jr., that racial prejudice is more than just against the color of one’s skin though critical impetus of the Civil Rights movement. In fact, if I heard him right, he was moving away from the racial issue into the “civil rights” issue, a bit more extensive than just the color of one’s skin. The problem with racial and skin color definitions is the percentage of blood being claimed, and we know in the CNMI that determining 12.5 blood heritage to claim being an indigene for property ownership, is at best, iffy.

I attended U.S. schools on the second half of the ’60s, marched with Dr. King and others in a War on Poverty against the War in Vietnam from the WH to Arlington Cemetery just a month before he bit the bullet on a Memphis veranda, and of IndoMalay skin coloration, I’ve found myself a couple of times on the wrong side of the soda counter, or, tolerated but ignored in California. I finally secured the bluebook in Guam ’84 after being detained at many immigration points for not bothering to apply for citizenship almost a decade when I qualified.

Well, we’ve grown as a nation and elected an intelligent half Kansas Brit descent, half Kenyan, to the Oval Office, one who had effectively parried racial undertones of political criticisms and parleyed charm to characterize his watch over a nation in decline.

While in the Piedmont, I served a local church where two Kluxmen refused to remember my name and just called me “Mr. Jones,” so I called them “Mr. Smiths” in turn. For a year, we gamely went through that ritual, finally ending in a flesh-touch of a handshake, first avoided when my extended hand was left hanging; their ladies asked my wife why I did not have enough cultural sense to tuck my shirt, a barong tagalog.

There were no shortages of white hotheads in my neighborhood in the Piedmont of folks with kin in Appalachia. They all had guns, sportingly hunted ducks in the fall and deer in the winter, complaining that it was no longer comfortable being white at the Woolworth soda counters that allowed “niggers” to be served as a consequence of sit-ins to declare that being “separate is not equal.”

Now Dylann Storm Roof, receiving a gun for his 21st birthday, prayed an hour with the congregation at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and after 9pm, drew his gun, fatally shooting nine and wounding three. He taunted his victims: “You rape our women. You’ve taken over the country; this must be done.” The guy wanted to restart the U.S. Civil War, but he might have symbolically ended it. The confederacy flag that flew over SC’s capitol for 15 years is finally coming down, and WalMart just decided to ban its image in products it sells.

Jon Stewart, retiring night showman, skipped humor in his signature monologue and decried with deep sadness and grief the tragedy in Charleston, though he did say, pun intended, that the matter was clearly “black and white.” The victim’s families at Roof’s arraignment, clearly in grief, nevertheless, managed to forgive.

Forgiveness is more than just a sentiment. It is the reality that whatever Roof did, it is done, finis, kaput. There is no way to undo what has occurred, and as the favorite Nigger in the White House recently said, Charleston represents more than 200 years of history and we are just starting to face up to a reality.

The widely-respected Booker T. Washington, funded by Carnegie’s steel wealth, opposed Du Bois’ movement to legally attain civil rights, and the mild-mannered gentleman from Virginia, identified with the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama, promoted gradual advancement through “entrepreneurship and education.” Booker’s middle name is “Taliaferro,” Italian for “metalsmith,” is a prominent name in Virginia, which he might have gotten by DNA, or adoption.

Which brings us back to being “culturally black and racially human.” If human evolution claims that we all evolved from the homo sapiens of West Africa, then we are, indeed, all ethnically “black;” choosing to be so is to be culturally “black.” Do we really care if Dolezal’s blood stream has 12.5 percent similarities with those of West Africa?

On the other hand, the lady with the finely and tightly braided hair who answers the phone with an African-American tone, and has culturally assimilated herself to the music of the Caribbean, with a mean hip thrust to show for it, does Uncle Tom really take exception to her wiles?

“Diversity” is the nature of our planet, of genes and memes, and seeing variation to vive le difference at the individual level is a treat. Culturally black and racially human is a choice, a solid taliaferro one!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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