Why Race Isn’t as ‘Black’ and ‘White’ as We Think

Why Race Isn’t as ‘Black’ and ‘White’ as We Think
The New York Times
by Brent Staples

People have occasionally asked me how a black person came by a “white” name like Brent Staples. One letter writer ridiculed it as “an anchorman’s name” and accused me of making it up. For the record, it’s a British name – and the one my parents gave me. “Staples” probably arrived in my family’s ancestral home in Virginia four centuries ago with the British settlers.

The earliest person with that name we’ve found – Richard Staples – was hacked to death by Powhatan Indians not far from Jamestown in 1622. The name moved into the 18th century with Virginians like John Staples, a white surveyor who worked in Thomas Jefferson’s home county, Albemarle, not far from the area where my family was enslaved.

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