Wednesday, June 10, 2020

More About The Cooking Gene

Last December--what feels like roughly eleventy-billion years ago now--I wrote about two books in connection with my father's birthday. One of those books was The Cooking Gene, by Michael W. Twitty.


This past couple of weeks, we as a society have looked (again) (and, I hope, in a sustained way) at murders of black men and women and focused a renewed, deserved attention on Black Lives Matter. 

As I've considered the ways in which I've benefited from being White, I keep thinking about this book. In the post six months ago, I shared how this book changed my perspective on the value of DNA tests as a way to trace family history. (Again, not the use of any DNA aggregation as "proof" that "I can't be racist because genes" or "I'm indigenous because genes." Again, check out the work of Dr. Kim TallBear.)  

Here's another subject Twitty discusses: slavery was an industry, in the modern sense of industry. When White people enslaved Africans and brought them to the Americas, they chose different peoples from different areas--they "matched" those they enslaved with the areas in which those people would be sold to work. Someone who cooked shellfish on the Atlantic Coast was stolen and brought to another place to cook shellfish on the Atlantic Coast. 

Of course slavery was like this. Of course it was. This is hard to type: people were property--owned, like things, like an antique chest of drawers or a pocket watch. White people assigned value to those "things," as  they judged the relative worth of antique furniture or jewelry. 

I mean, I knew this. I just hadn't looked at it closely enough. I didn't unpack what "enslaving people" meant--the serious of callous and inhumane actions it would take to be a broker or someone otherwise involved in that trade. 

These were the people who set up systems from whom I still benefit, 400 years later.

This morning, my husband and I were discussing our roof, which leaks (again) (still). We're talking about the work we might like to have done on it, and the various pros and cons of the companies we know of in the area who do this kind of work. 

Eventually, we'll choose someone at some roofing company to attempt to stop the leaks. We will match their skills to our needs. And, because we live in a capitalistic economy, we'll pay the company for it. 

Because we can. Because we've benefited from systems of education and employment that make it possible for us to live in a beautiful place, and care for it as best we can.

Another recent insight: it's possible to be grateful and nauseated at the same time. 

And I'll say it again and again: Books are passports to others' experiences. They are conversations with important people, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to listen.