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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Being Otherwise

I looked at myself, a female Afro-Canadian, born to Jamaican parents. And looked at my friend, a male Indo-Canadian, born to Guyanese parents, and said:

Ever wonder where we would be without colonialism, what we would look like, and where we would be? Can you imagine how the world would be if Red Indians were left to themselves in North America, the Arawaks in Jamaica? Obviously we would not have certain inventions, or would we? And who would get the rightful credit for it? Now, in 2013, would we have as much cross crustal contact? Would some of us be so genetically…complex?¬†Everything colonialism has given and taken, different. Everything we take for granted and love about ourselves, taken from us. Would you therefore say, that colonialism, has defined who and in some cases we are today? The discourses of colonialism, the mere thought of erasing them all, or some of them, would require much brain power and imagination.” I finally concluded, answering my own question.

But he then asked:
So if you could be born again, what would you keep the same about yourself, what would you change, would you want to be the exact same person?
I told him I would be the same, Black, Christian, a female and of Jamaican ancestry, but born in France. He said he’d be the same as well, except born in England, and of Guyanese ancestry. It was kind of interesting that both of us would remain pretty much the same, save one minor difference. Perhaps because in some ways thinking otherwise, it is hard for us to do so. We realize things could be otherwise, and it’s hard for us to accept the “otherwise.” Also, I guess we cannot know for sure how living otherwise would be, if it would be better or worse than our situations now. Perhaps it would be neither, because we would not know any better or worse…Or would we? Who can say?