I received my DNA results from Ancestry.com on June 29. I was so excited to learn more about my heritage that I stopped what I was doing and opened the results. Turns out that what I thought I knew about my white half was pretty accurate. Few surprises there (well one but I’ll get to that in a minute.) My black half is super black and I’m super excited to learn that. I am, at minimum, 45% African and if I add the Iberian Peninsula, I could be edging closer to 50%. Which is pretty cool because I understand that most African Americans who do the DNA testing average between 70-80% African. I am guessing this has to do with the rampant rape of enslaved women during chattel slavery more than anything else. When I began my DNA journey, I was hoping for at least 30% African ancestry. I was pleased to see my percentage was higher.
The cool thing about the Ancestry DNA is that I got a list of people who match my DNA. One of the people is my maternal aunt, my closest match – took me a little while to figure it out and I only figured it out because of another surprise my DNA unlocked. My next closest match, I learned was related to me through my maternal grandfather’s side. It took some back and forth with my new relative and my mom and her sisters to figure out how we were related. It turns out that my grandfather had an affair with a woman while my grandma was pregnant with her last child. The woman my grandfather had the affair with gave her daughter up for adoption. So while I did the DNA test to find clues about my paternal heritage, I ended up unlocking the paternal heritage of my new aunt. Now I have a new aunt and cousins. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
As for finding paternal heritage DNA clues, I have found many people from my paternal in my DNA matches and have messaged some of those who I have a closer DNA relationship to and am waiting for someone to reply. I’m waiting…
It is pretty cool to know part of my DNA story – where my ancestors came from and it creates many more questions. A Nigerian friend of mine gave me some Nigerian fabric a few years ago and I have been wanting to do something special with it, so now I have questions about cultural appropriation because I really want to make a dashiki. I’ve actually wanted one for a while but because of my racial ambiguity, I am hyper aware of this liminal space that I occupy and how that might look (I’m thinking of the racial faker that has had way too much media attention, whose name I refuse to give more attention to – but that is another blog post some day.) I generally do what I want and don’t worry much about what people think about me. Race, identity, and community are complicated and complex.
I work to be genuine, honest, true to myself, thoughtful, and considerate. For the most part I think I live these values. I also have a strong moral compass and sense of right from wrong. When I think about making a dashiki and living my blackness, I think about authenticity and what that means to me. Because I was raised in a white family, community, schools, etc…, my experience is vastly different than pretty much every single one of my black friends, whether African American or international. I have never had a foot in two worlds, I have only ever been in one world. I’m biracial but I am not bicultural. These are all things that I have considered much of my life, are sources of insecurity for me, and my driving force to re/member myself.
And that is what this whole DNA/paternal heritage quest is all about: re/membering myself, piecing myself back together, reconstructing me, growing, learning, moving into who I am and what I’m about. This has been something I have inadvertently (at times) and purposefully (at times) avoided for a lot of reasons, including the difficulty in finding my bio-father and the uncomfortableness in doing so. I’m trying to be intentional in my choices and while the dashiki seems minor, it is symbolic of something bigger inside me and something beyond me. I think I’ll leave it there for now.