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'We need to see past traditional notions of what makes two people become more than strangers.'

Kevin FrazierIt took a family reunion to make me realize that family isn't defined by genetics. Instead, family is a decision you make to share a tie with someone, despite geographic and genealogical differences — you define your own family.

America needs to have a similar awakening.

Our American family doesn't fit nicely on Ancestry.com. Our American family tree is knotted, twisted, and, at times, branched in divergent directions. So we can choose to see ourselves as disconnected or we can decide to see one another as long-lost relatives.

The former choice would be a continuation of current trends (see President Donald Trump's plea to send certain Americans "home"). The latter would be a commitment for us all to be more inclusive, more welcoming, and more familial (a reputation of the easier decision to discriminate based on physical differences).

Sara Welch (or was it Welsh?) sat on the sidelines of the Frazier-full photo taken during our family reunion. She thought she'd escaped the attention of the boisterous bunch of blue-eyed relatives. That, of course, was impossible. Fraziers are as noisy as they are humorous (very). Though her 23 & Me wouldn't align with the Fraziers' 80% British, 11% Swiss and 5% Iberian profile (as shared by cousin Randy), Sara was deemed family — no matter how far removed.

So we collectively shouted at her (nicely) to get in the photo. With familial designation determined, she was welcomed into every other photo, party to every secret, and part of every memory made during the Frazier family reunion held in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

I have absolutely no idea how or if I am related to Sara. But after our brief encounter in Plymouth, she's special to me now and always will be. Honestly, I don't know if Sara and I share anything in common besides showing up at the same event and, now, defining ourselves as part of the same family.

Americans need to define themselves as family. Some would point to the 1950s and say we already were one. Such claims ring hollow when viewed in the shadow of de facto discrimination. Others claim we already are one and that "outsiders" are frustrating our attempts to be more united. But this view, too, is inaccurate — the American family was never intended to be exclusionary. After all, the pilgrims that settled in Plymouth embarked on their journey because of shared beliefs, not shared genetics.

We need to see past traditional notions of what makes two people become more than strangers. We need to conceptualize and act on the idea of an American family that cares first about caring for one another, and, second, about how we can build a better future together. Color, creed and career need not be barriers to forming a broader conception of family.

President Trump has narrowly (and inaccurately) defined our family as white, Christian and conservative. This makes him the black sheep, in my conception of the American family.

Will you join a welcoming American family? Will you choose to see others as part of an occasionally dysfunctional but always connected bunch? Will you commit to seeing similarities before acting on differences?

I hope you will and I hope we'll become family. The next reunion is going to be at Uncle Tommy's house — see you there?

Kevin Frazier is a Tualatin resident.


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