My best friend has more genealogy than she knows what to do with. Growing up, I’d hear her tell me about her giant, ancient family, I’d hear her complain that she couldn’t get any new furniture because there were too many antiques, see her show me heirlooms as carelessly as if they could be found on any street corner, looked at her ancestors’ framed immigration documents that hang on her bedroom wall. My best friend jokingly refers to her family as “the bad guys of history” – the slave-owners, the mill-owners, the rich white men who everyone ends up hating in history classes. I’m lucky, she’s always said. My family are all Jews. I never had to feel responsible for the things someone in my family did because the people I came from didn’t do much of anything at all
But I guess I never felt very lucky about it.