On Henry Louis Gates' 'Finding Your Roots,' actress Michelle Rodriguez discovers family's colorism

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From Clutch Magazine: In a recent episodes of PBS’ Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, actress Michelle Rodriguez learned of the extreme lengths the Puerto Rican side of her family went through to remain light skinned.

To keep their family light, many relatives married first cousins rather than risk marrying someone from the outside who might produce potentially darker offspring.

From The Root:

Gates found out that Rodriguez’ light-skinned paternal ancestors married each other at a surprising rate. In fact, three of the actress’ great-great-great-grandfathers were brothers, while all of her great-great-grandfathers were first cousins.

Our genealogist who traced your family tree in Puerto Rico called your family tree ‘a beautiful depiction of the consanguinity and endogamy on 19th-century Puerto Rican families,’ ” Gates told Rodriguez, who responded, “That’s an elegant way of saying you guys loved to do it in the family.”

Rodriguez was aware of her family’s colorism, but not the extent of it. Even within her immediate family, she felt the sting of it as her father’s Puerto Rican family was critical of him marrying a darker Dominican woman, Rodriguez’s mother.

Later, Rodriguez was shocked when she learned she was 72 percent European, 21 percent black and 6 percent Native American.

For all the concerns about colorism within the African-American community, compared to what happened in many Latin American and South American cultures, the American view almost seems enlightened. While there is a lot of discussion about color preferences and the privileges afforded to those who have lighter skin, the nature of American-style racism and Jim Crow laws fostered some semblance of togetherness or, at the least, some shared sacrifice amongst black Americans of all shades. Just the fact that someone light enough to pass for white would use the word “black” to describe themselves and their family – with pride – reflects of this.

So many black Americans, who in any other country would have self-identified as white or mixed, often solely identify as black in this country.

Often to the sheer befuddlement of our South American counterparts.