In his article “Black Heritage: A Fight For Identity”, The Stripes’ Kovey Coles outlines a few encounters where people have inquired of his heritage. Most of the encounters that he lists occurred abroad, between him and a nonnative English speaker. However, the article was mainly focused on Mr. Coles’ feeling that because many Blacks in American do not know their true heritage, any inquiry into their ancestry is insensitive.
As a Black person, I agree that it is somewhat insensitive, and I admit that I too have felt a twinge of envy when my lighter complexioned friends are able to claim certain percentages of German, Italian, Swiss, Portuguese, and perhaps even Native American descent. But the fact that he is discomforted by this question suggests that he sees our history as a source of shame, as something that needs to be covered up.