Growing up, I was always intrigued when my nonblack friends spoke of their ethnic roots. Some were Irish, others were German, Chinese, East Indian, and even Turkish. I wanted to be able to declare my heritage as well. However, it was during a brief but separate conversation with each of my parents that led me to an unfortunate revelation. If you’re a black American, you probably have as much chance of winning the lottery as you would finding anything about your ancestry. After all, the slaves were were stripped of their identity and in some cases, their birth dates. So I asked questions and could not get much out of my mother because things like that were not important enough to pass down from generation to generation. I asked my father and was informed that we were part Irish. Now how the heck was I, a dark-skinned pure black American looking girl, supposed go around telling people I was part Irish. Ridiculous! I just had to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to get any real answers. Or was I?
So I started hearing about DNA tests that could give me the answers I “wanted.” Am I Senegalese? I hope so. A Naija Girl (Nigerian)? Or maybe my roots are in Ghana. So I ordered my Ancestry.com DNA test and was on my way to what I thought was an exciting discovery. Here’s the breakdown:
I’m “only” 81% black African, namely Nigerian (31%), Benin/Togo (15%), a smaller percentage of Southeastern Bantu, Congolese, but only 7% Senegalese. I was really hoping to have more Senegalese ancestry. Too bad.
Next, the really shocking discoveries. All my life I had assumed that my nonblack ancestry was in the single digits. I was shocked to find out that I am 17% white European. It may not be 50% but it was enough to snap me back into the realization that I cannot claim to be “all black” like I always have. Here’s the Euro breakdown:
I’m 7% Irish which is no surprise.
BUT, I’M 5% EASTERN EUROPEAN…GASP!!!
You see, I must admit that I’m uncomfortable with Eastern Europeans not because I feel they are inferior or anything. It’s just that I’ve experienced racism and read about extreme racism in that part of the world. So just imagine what went through my mind when I read that result. That wasn’t the only mind blowing discovery but more on that in a bit.
I’ve got small amounts of Finnish/Northern Russian and Scandinavian, and droplets of English, Italian, and Greek ancestry as well…all totaling 17%.
My final mind-blowing discovery was that I have West Asian (i.e. Middle Eastern) ancestry mostly either Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish, or another nation in that part of the world. They are another people group that I am uncomfortable with due to rampant racism in those nations.
Just imagine being what you fear, LOL. Well, as long as I’m not related to the late tyrant, Saddam Hussein, I’m good.
To sum it all up, I feel like a security blanket has been snatched from me on two counts. I feel less genetically black than I did before and will have to come to terms with ancestries I’m reluctant to embrace. You know what, I really don’t have to change a thing and don’t want to. I’m a black American. We may not be a perfect group but we managed to carve out exceptional contributions to literature, art, medicine, sports, and law. A black American woman is who I was before and who I am now and until I take my last breath.