On the morning of Tuesday, June 12, 2018 I woke up feeling tremendously restless. I checked my phone to see it was just before 5am. I told myself to go back to sleep, but could not. I decided against my internal warnings to look at my email and I saw the news, “Your results are ready.” I sat up feeling shocked. I turned in my saliva sample only 2 week before and read that it would take 4-6 weeks to learn of my Ancestry. A friend confirmed that hers took 6 weeks. I was expecting the results in July. Mine were in and I lay there contemplating the question, “Who am I?”
My whole life I built my identity around being Black and White with Native American Ancestry. Despite my “white” looking skin, people commented that my hair and nose were indications of my “Blackness.” I spent most of my life being teased about my light skin, however I’d been told my whole life that I am Black. Even my very white Paternal Grandmother, who very clearly loved me my whole life, referred to me at Black most of the time. Her references were not a denial of my European ancestry, nor were they a put down. My Grandmother is “old school,” coming from a Black mother made me a Black child. In this episode of Blackish, Rainbow and her father have a beautiful conversation about Biracial identity and how he always knew she would be Black. To me, this episode pretty much summed up a very common thought about Bi-racial identity and “Blackness.” In my case, I also grew up with the generation still impacted by the old slavery “One drop rule,” that states anyone having “One drop of Black blood,” is considered Black. So there, I always knew I was Black.
I still wondered my actual Ancestral heritage. I grew up very much identified with Indigenous American Culture. My Maternal Great-Grandmother, who I had the pleasure of living in a multi-generational household with, was very dark-skinned with high cheek bones. I grew up being told that she had a Native American mom, “Cherokee.” I also remember hearing her mother was “Black and Native American.” When I looked at her pictures, I saw a woman who had the look of the people I saw in old photos who were of African and Native American mixture. These conversations in the Black community are strong indications of the legacy slavery left. As Africans were stolen from our Native lands and shipped off across the diaspora to be enslaved, it left a legacy of confusion as many of us lost our Ancestry. When I looked at my Great-Grandmother’s pictures plus all my other Maternal relatives, I felt strong in my Blackness, my African Heritage.
As I grew older, I felt very aligned with Puerto Rican and Mexican peoples. Additionally, having alliances with people of a variety of Latin American backgrounds through my love of Indigenous Medicine practices, added to my curiosity of having possible Latin American Ancestry. Most of my life people thought I was Jewish or Puerto Rican. I heard a rumor that we possibly had a Puerto Rican relative. As I child I questioned my identity through other people’s doubt. As an adult I felt fascinated with the specifics. Why I behaved the way I did, cultural practices, food and music preferences, plus my deep love of Indigenous Medicine. Finally, all the wondering was over. My results rested in my inbox.
I signed on to my account and went immediately to my results and was shocked to my core. As I read through my results I saw .1% Native American. I felt hurt to my core as I believed I was more due to Ancestry on both sides of my family. Out of all my results, honestly this hurt the most.
My next focus was the fact that my total European Ancestry added up to roughly 68%. I have several small percentages from a wide variety of European countries, some surprised me, like British and Portugal, some did not like Ireland (I knew both sides carried Irish Heritage). I looked at the percentages and moved on to the African Ancestry, which to my surprise was roughly 30%.
Though I always knew I was “Half Black,” I knew that did not mean I was 50% African. I’ll be honest, as my cultural consciousness grew, my belief in my African Ancestry diminished. I knew it was there, but didn’t think the percentage would be very high. I genuinely believed my Native American Ancestry would be higher.
As I read more deeply through the details, I actually was shocked that out of all my percentages, my highest came from an area in West Africa known as Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde. I sat with that for a moment. Out of all the different percentages of African and European Ancestry, my most dominant was 24.8% Cabo Verdean.
I am 25%Cabo Verdean (aka Cape Verdean), I asked myself. So at 5am on that Tuesday morning I looked up Cabo Verde on my phone. As I felt my head spin I thought of the two women with whom I’ve had strong familial connections, though they are both non-relative. A Spiritual “Sister” who I’ve known for nearly 30 years. A woman I met through a church who I called my “Spiritual Mother,” who I’ve known for nearly 20 years. Both Cape Verdean women born and raised in America, who as it turned out had a relative in common. I typed out a text to one and saved in it my drafts to send at a decent hour. I continued to think.
Several days have passed and I’m sitting with the information. I’ve been able to have a good conversation with my Cape Verdean “Sister/Cousin.” Though my head is still spinning and I’m questioning my identity more than ever, I’m happy to know the percentages that comprise my physical being. I do feel sad that I have less Native American Ancestry that I believed. My Ancestral report did list a 1.7% as “Undetermined.” When I researched my Maternal heritage in a small Texas town, the Indigenous American Tribe in that location does not have “Federal recognition.” I do wonder if that 1.7% could be from that tribe. Or perhaps that’s my need to feel more connected to the Indigenous People’s of this land.
I felt a bit surprised at several .1% percentage connections. My deepest fascination, for lack of a better terms, are my highest percentages: Cape Verde (Big surprise), Irish (Not surprised, I already knew), British (Did not know and am very surprised), and Portugal (Very surprised on an intellectual level, but not surprised on an intuitive level). So here I am, genetically speaking.
So as I sit here with my cup of tea I contemplate. For a variety of reasons, self knowledge is very important. We can be open to learning, but I believe it’s an important part of life to know one’s self. Self-knowledge can guide our decisions, it can dictate our destiny, it can protect us from people who like to belittle, it can guide our entire being on a Spiritual and emotional level. For me, the years of questioning my Ethnic Identity have been laid to rest. ” I know who I am.” So whether you know who you are in connection to your Source, or you know who you are as a Human, or knowing who you are in relationship to your Ancestry, it’s important to know you.
Thank you for reading. Cheers to knowing who you are, in whatever way that means to you.