So About Your Last Name…

today in class (sociology of poverty) we were doing group work, and were discussing immigration and employment.

one of my group members, another black canadian female with jamaican parents, shared what she learned about her last name/her heritage on a side note:

did you know that my last name, edwards, comes from the last name of the man who owned the plantation my ancestors worked on? that is my family history and i feel a sense of pride knowing where my last name comes from.

i found that interesting, but had to play devil’s advocate:

i do not feel a sense of pride knowing that my last name more than likely was imposed onto my ancestors from people of english descent. i feel a sense of annoyance that my dominant history was disrupted and that there was an attempt to recreate the history of millions of people and their future offspring through a simple name change and adoption of ways. just because i am unable to pinpoint what my african last name could have been, i refuse to accept the current last name i possess as a way of tracing or understanding my ancestry or heritage. at the same time, i am open to the fact that somewhere down the line one of my ancestors could very well have been a white man with my current last name, and that the “plantation” family name could have been something different.

but who really knows. i found the conversation rather enlightening personally. this girl is exactly like me in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, race, ability but prides herself in something i never really took pride in, or had even given much thought to: the possibility that her ancestors inherited the last name of their plantation owner.

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