”When people go around and say, ‘You are black’ – well, I don’t encourage it, but by the same token I don’t back off of it,” he says. ”If you want to call me that, that’s fine. But, you know, in my whole family, there’s nobody I know who is black.” Raised in Queens Michael Todd Tirico grew up in a middle-class Italian family in Queens, about a five-minute drive from Shea Stadium. Tirico’s parents, Donald and Maria, were separated when he was about 4, and he says he has since lost contact with his father’s side of the family. Tirico is an only child. Because of his dark skin and ethnic features, Tirico says, most people assume he is black. But he’s seen pictures of his father, his father’s mother and his father’s sister – all of whom are white, Tirico says. ”The only contact I had growing up was with my mom’s side of the family. And they are all as white as the refrigerator I’m standing in front of right now,” Tirico says, standing in his kitchen in the Clay townhouse where he lives. Someday, he says, he plans to do genealogical research to find out if he has a black ancestor, but it’s not something he considers a pressing issue.
Tirico concedes, though, that his uncertain ethnicity sometimes makes other uncomfortable. Even skeptical. ”I know the story sounds like a lot of bull, but it’s the truth” he says. “Does it matter to me? Yeah, I’d like to find out the truth at some point, so I can answer questions for my kids. But me? I’m living, I’m working, I’m leading an upstanding life. I don’t worry about it.”