Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Shall I Make My Own Judenstern?

The one thing one cannot escape is one's DNA. At the time of my mother's death, my sister paid to process genetic tests for both of our parents. The results now reside on servers with the National Geographic Society.

A few months later, when the results came back, I brought them up and looked at the migration maps based on my parents' ancestry. My mother's was not a surprise- but my father's held a few little bombs for which we weren't totally prepared.

Mom was a genealogist, and for a long time suspected, based on certain patterns, that some of Dad's ancestors were Jewish. They'd obscured this very carefully and converted to Christianity along the way, becoming Methodist clergy and congregants. Dad hotly denied it, insisting that the family is English, and indeed, our surname was granted as an official name in the 12th Century...to a different family. My sister has since pursued further genetic matching with a lineal society bearing our surname, and learned that we belong to a secondary lineage of that name. In other words, we're not the English ones.

As I studied the maps for my father's ancestral migrations, they snapped into sharp, immediate relief- I was looking at the Diaspora. By cross-referencing the genetic profile and the exact migratory patterns, something became patently clear: my mother was right. My father's paternal family was Jewish. First to Italy, then across to Spain and Portugal, and then to the British Isles, then the Netherlands, and America; the Russian Jews fled to Romania and dispersed through Eastern Europe. We were just ahead of the Inquisition on the one hand, and running from pogroms on the other.

His mother's family is no less interesting. We knew we were part Cherokee, and Irish, and could trace those back, but the surprise there was that my grandmother also had Romany (that's Gypsy, to the non-PC) ancestry. Great. At least there's some precedence for my reading Tarot as a hobby, I guess.

So, to recap: on my Dad's side of the family, we have no small experience with genocide. People have been trying to kill us off for eons.

In the current climate, when racist, fascist, xenophobic ideologies are running rampant in the United States, I'm not comfortable. Visually, I can "pass", but my genes are of record. I'm not completely white. I'm not completely gentile. What I am is quite demoralized and more than a little scared. So when they come for me, what badge will I be forced to wear? The Judenstern (the yellow star of the Holocaust), or a combination for my 'undesirable' ancestry, or something that reflects my "political dissidence"?

It's this knowledge that took me into the streets with a pink cat hat and thousands of other folks. I'm not 'whining'- the people who are kvetching the most about it are whiter and more gentile than me, so they don't have anything to worry about. I can't hide in plain sight anymore, and I really don't know that I would if I could.

No comments: