Thursday, March 31, 2005

Re-Reading Marler on Redbones

I used to think Don Marler was the most knowledgeable person I knew on the subject of Redbones. A cousin, LV Hayes, is the most knowledgeable person I know in terms of our interconnectedness. He knows how we're all related. LV has been very stingy with his opinion about who he thinks is or is not a Redbone, in part, I believe, because he does not like the word Redbone and thinks people distantly related to its real meaning who find some sort of misguided pride in the idea to be idiots. I agree with him in part.

Don's book is the only one written about our families, thus far, and it was self-published, which means it was never vetted by anyone with critical knowledge about the subject. The Redbone Heritage Foundation is Don's baby. The main problem with Don's book is that he's willing to call anyone with an Indian grandmother tradition in Louisiana a Redbone. We Redbones know better.

It is noted that none of the present members of the Redbone Heritage Foundation have made any attempts at connecting with their dark, but distant cousins in Starks and Singer. Those Redbones would be my cousins.

Back to Don's book. There are a couple of areas that I thought inconclusive and felt that he made more of an issue than I thought was there. The connection between the "Redbones" of South Carolina and the "Redbones" of Louisiana was very weak. The only connection I saw was the similarity of circumstance and choice of word used by Whites.

My next issue is similar. He would make the Melungeon connection more than it is. Rhoda Mosely and Drury Bunch are thought be from Kentucky because of a census wherein they said that's where they were from. They were considered by the census taker to be not-White. Were they Melungeon? Were Melungeons a self-identified sub-group in 1840? Probably, but not conclusively. Their daughters, Anna and Mary, went on to be grandmothers of large and powerful clans. That did not make their dozens of grandchildren Melungeon. No more than Keziah make her dozens of grandchildren Indian.

My theory? If you can call it that. Their self-identify evolved just as the racial codification intensified. It took at least two generations for them to think of similarly situated people as kindred spirits. The social-anthropological question is how many generations of a group being separate is required to make the group a "people." They began as a group from many areas with many different experiences. Some had supported the American Revolution, some apparently didn't. There may be a pattern showing how they cooperated as a group and not just as cousins, but it hasn't manifested itself to me, yet. We are not a people united by a culture, we're just a borderline racial mix who continue to identify with cousins, just as their ancestors did 200 years ago. There may be an acknowledgement as between two people who identify an ill-defined kinship, but there is no value given that similarity of circumstance.

I think Marler wants to make their interactions more than they were. What Don would call "Redbones" I would call "similarly situated, mixed-race people who were White-identified, but who obviously were dark complexioned and therefore not accepted as White." "Redbone" is a more efficient word. They did not, in my opinion, ever identify with each other because of the particularness of their circumstance. I don't think the girls in Starks thought of the girls in Pitkin as members of the same tribe, just different high schools. Anyone with experience here, just weigh in.

Okay, you idiots at the Redbone Heritage Foundation, read my lips here. I'm saying outloud what others are saying about you. I just happen to have a pulpit. You can continue to ignore me and call me names amongst yourselves. That just proves you're a bunch of idiots. You still don't have any Redbones in your group, so you need to figure out a way to reach out to actual Redbones. Why is that so difficult for you to grasp?

You people are a bunch of idiots. Sorry, but you're going to need to start over.

My problem with the word "Redbone" is that it is an offensive word to many in that community. It was never our choice of descriptive adjectives. It was a word used by Whites to describe us. We never used the word in a positive way before about 1980. When my cousins and I used it, we did not use it in front of our parents. Even today, if you called my mother a Redbone, she'd slap you.

Maybe we do need to reclaim the word, but it's not for a bunch of "Wannabes" to tell those of us who are still dark anything.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm celebrating our Two Hundredth Anniversary of being in Texas and Louisiana. We are kick ass people!

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