If Donald Trump knew he had black relations, would this give him an epiphany?


I rarely get personal when it comes to Genealogy Adventures. I definitely don’t air political views, although I have an enormous interest in politics. Genealogy Adventures is my baby and, like any parent, I’m probably a bit over protective of it. Yet, American events over the past year or so provide me with a unique opportunity to discuss race/ethnicity, politics, and genealogy. Yes, those are three very odd bedfellows. A curious current national zeitgeist brings all three into a perfect alignment.

So yes, this article will be political…but not in the way you think it will be.

Around the time that Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy, I discovered that I was related to him through his mother’s Scottish ancestry.  Due to the volume of ancestors we share, she was a cousin many-times over. She was a 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th cousin quite a few times removed – the degree of cousin changes depending on which common ancestral line you look at. Her Stuart/Stewart, Gordon, Hamilton, Bailey, and McKenzie lines are threaded throughout my colonial ancestry. The reason is pretty straightforward. It all has to do with the Highland clearances after the failed bid by Charles Stuart to take the British crown during the Jacobite rebellion. The other reason for our shared ancestry were our Scottish ancestors who were Covenanters; Scottish Presbyterians whose faith fell foul of the established Church of Scotland. The last common set of ancestors we share were Scottish Quakers who left Scotland for the same reasons as the Covenanters.

Each group arrived in the American colonies. Some would go on to became enslavers. Of those who became enslavers, more than a few fathered children by their enslaved women. I am the product of some of those unions in the American colonies. I am also the product of such unions that occurred throughout the 18th Century and 19th Centuries in the American south.

I am far from being the only African American or person of color to be related to the presidential incumbent. He has more relations within communities of color than he could ever imagine. If I had to make a conservative bet, I would wage that number runs into the high hundreds of thousands.

Would knowing this change how he speaks about African Americans? Would it change his rhetoric? Would he set aside the proverbial dog whistle his melanated cousins hear loud and clear?

I am not looking to shame the man. When has trying to shame an adult really ever worked? It’s also not in my nature to shame. I prefer to educate. I would hope this knowledge would make him think. Think about what? Well, what this actually means, for starters. To take some space and let this realization sink in and percolate for a bit. For instance, I would hope that he would look at his immediate family, and extended family members he knows…and then think about hundreds of thousands of melanated Americans who are also part of his (very) extended family. Would that change his rhetoric? Would that enable him to see melanted Americans as something other than a monolithic ‘other’, you know, seeing us as “The Blacks”? Would that be enough for him to make our social justice issues his own? I wonder. And yes, I also hope. Some of the same blood that runs his veins also runs through our own. I would hope that would give anyone pause to think.

Had he known this, would his first response to Charlottesville have been different? Would his recent NFL and NBA comments have been different? Instead, would he have said “I hear you. I share your concerns and the issues that you face. And here is my roadmap to change the set of historical and current experiences your communities have faced within this country.” He doesn’t like sports players kneeling in protest?  Fine.  Be the change agent. Roll up your sleeves and start tackling the root causes that underlie the protest. Start addressing the causes that led to sports personalities to take the knee in the first place.

It is easily in his power to do so. It merely requires the will for him to do so. Playing to the gallery of 30% of Americans won’t change a thing, and the social injustice train will continue to roll down the tracks it’s been on forever in this country. If I were to ever meet him, which is absolutely highly unlikely, I’d simply tell him that if he wanted to go down in the history books in the right way, the best way possible, being the president who tackled social injustice and inequality in America would secure that for him. The hardcore 30% of Americans who form his base can never give that accolade to him. In fact, they are keeping him from ever achieving this. It’s a numbers game. And as one cousin to another, he’s been focusing on the wrong set of numbers.

I don’t know if he will ever see this article. I hope he does. And I hope it makes him think. If he sincerely wants to be the ‘Uniter in Chief”, I couldn’t think of a better place to start that process.


6 thoughts on “If Donald Trump knew he had black relations, would this give him an epiphany?

  1. I think the president would deny it if he acknowledged it at all. But, I think there are a lot of WASP types that have black relations. I do, by marriage through an uncle, I’ve forgotten how far back. I also had enslavers in another line. In the 1860 census, slaves were enumerated by age and race and several of the young children were identified as “M”. I have a feeling some of them, if not all, are cousins.
    Good article.

    1. Thank you Jan. well, DNA is certainly unveiling a steady stream of white men who fathered my mixed-race ancestors, both free and enslaved. I also have to say, for the most part, meeting newly discovered white cousins has been a positive experience. Like anything else, there are the exceptions. As for Donald trump, i honestly don’t expect to hear from him. Or for him to acknowledge that he has black relations. I just wanted to let him know that he actually does have them, and more than he could ever imagine.

  2. I would like to share an email I received about this post. Can I just say I love you guys? Genealogy Adventures’s fans and followers are a special group. i really mean that. What I like about this email is that it respectful, polite, measured, and insightful. I wish more conversations on contentious topics could be this constructive.Considering the torrent of insults, dismissive comments, empty rhetoric – or just out and out hate, that I receive – comments like this one stand out in terms of the tone and approach.

    It is also an excellent teachable moment. I know that sounds patronizing and condescending. It honestly isn’t. There are plenty of Americans who feel the same as Ms K. I have redacted Ms K’s name to give her anonymity. I am the one who raised the issue, not her.

    K’s EMAIL:

    From: “K H”
    To: “briansheffey@gmail.com”
    Sent: 26-Sep-17 1:48:41 PM
    Subject: Re: [New post] If Donald Trump knew he had black relations, would this give him an epiphany?

    Dear Brian,
    I very much enjoy reading your Genealogy Adventures, and commend you for all the interesting articles and detailed research. I have Stewart ancestors of mixed race who, like your ancestors, lived near Edgefield SC, and I hope that some day we may find an ancestor connection.

    My comment today is about your current article (25 Sept 2017) concerning President Trump’s “rhetoric” regarding African Americans. I think that, while your article accurately reflects the news media’s narrative about President Trump, your article grossly misrepresents the truth in conveying that he has any “rhetoric” against people of color. Now, I don’t blame you for this, because many people form their opinions based on the wormtongue news media’s narratives. But I would like for you to please consider the evidence before propagating their untruths.

    Here is what President Trump actually said:
    “We are determined to deliver more opportunity, jobs and safety for the African-American citizens of our country. America can really never, ever rest until children of every color are fully included in the American Dream—so important. I think, probably, one of my most and maybe my most important goal. It is our mutual duty and obligation to make sure this happens. ”
    From President Trump’s Weekly Address (February 3, 2017)

    So, considering his actual words, are you able to provide an actual quote wherein President Trump is saying anything against African-Americans? Or did you just fall for the news media’s narrative? My opinion is that the news media push a false narrative because they are controlled by The Swamp, which President Trump has pledged to drain (that is, he has pledged to end organized corruption). The Swamp and their PR wing, the wormtongue news media, are doing everything possible to remove him from office, before he can remove them. You can help America and also African-Americans by being careful to convey the truth.

    Thank you, Brian, for considering this.
    Best regards, K


    Dear K,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and measured response.

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. Let me explain.

    I understand the assumption and premise that US news may have shaped my view. However, I rarely watch American news programs. BBC News is my main news outlet. That’s because it is unbiased, factual, vetted, and not running commentary/opinion which is such a large feature of American news programming. I can’t tell you how much that frustrates my soul. But it is what it is. Secondly, I’m fiercely independent. I do my own research, using vetted and respected sources, and make up my own mind. And, as a person of color myself, I have my own personal experience to go on.

    From the day he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump said loud and clear that he was no friend to people of color. When he refers to us as ‘The Blacks’, he shows he has no understanding of communities of color. What blacks? African blacks who live in the US? Caribbean blacks who live in the US? American-born blacks? Blacks from other parts of the world who live here? Mixed-race blacks? We are an exceptionally diverse group of people with radically different cultures, historical experiences, educational attainment, socio-economic attainment, etc. We are not monolithic.

    Every time he speaks of us, he does so in the most reductionist terms, which I personally find offensive.

    I’m not going to delve too deeply into the whole Charlottesville thing. The fact that he had to come out 3 (or was it 4?) different times says it all for me.

    Now, as for the kneeling controversy. I stand by what I wrote. If the protest upsets him that much, he has the power to change the true, real root of this protest – which isn’t about disrespecting the flag or servicemen. That’s just a smokescreen. He, and Jeff Sessions both, know full well what the root cause is. Neither speaks of it. Neither admits it. Neither mentions it. So neither of them seem compelled to address or tackle it. They ignore the growing number of white Americans who do understand what the protest is really about. Instead, the President feels compelled to rally behind the group of Americans who refuse to acknowledge the true issue at hand. I sincerely believe he could turn his presidency around if he tackled the root cause, which is social and judicial injustice, as well as policing.

    I love the quote you provided. They are, however, just empty words. We’ve been here over and over and over again through too many republican and Democratic administrations. This president has never, ever said how he plans to achieve this, or tackle this problem. It’s hollow rhetoric. words are easy. We say them all the time. The real proof of the pudding is in the doing, not the saying. It strikes me as a man playing to his base saying “See, I’m not such a bad guy. What’s everyone going on about?” Or, to be more cynical, it’s merely a tick-list item. “OK, so I said a few nice words about the blacks, that’s done.”

    He’s spent more time talking about how to build a wall than he has on how, specifically, he would tackle social and judicial injustice. He’s unveiled physical plans for building a wall.

    Donald Trump has spent more time discussing immigration bans than he has on this subject. Yes, securing our borders is important. The well-being and the attainment of the American dream is just as important, especially to marginalized communities (including poor whites, lest I get accused of forgetting them).

    He has spent more time slagging off the NFL and NBA than he has done on social injustice, inequality, and policing reform.

    And zilch about specific policies and plans to assist marginalized communities of color. in short, words are cheap. Administration after administration has offered just words. I don’t want to hear words. I want to see plans, policies, road maps, projected timelines, and actions. As a business man, i want to see an overall, joined-up strategy and strategic plan. As a businessman himself, the president knows exactly what I mean by this. That’s something that is tangible. That is something to work with. That is something to begin a national conversation with. That is what I expect of a president who says he wants to unify a country.

    I hope that makes sense.

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