I doubt there’s a mixed person alive that has escaped the “what are you?” question. I used to answer this flatly with — I’m Jamaican and I’m mixed. If I had to elaborate, I’d say I was born there, my parents and grandparents were born there too. People would still look at me puzzled, like their brains couldn’t compute a light-skinned Jamaican person. Where they though Sean Paul is from, only God knows. But I digress, the question of what my mix is has always been complicated. The answer was somewhere between I have no idea beyond Jamaica and I have a few clues. I knew that I had some French heritage, although, I never paid attention to it until one of my university professors said my last name using the French pronunciation. Boy was that a shock to the system. I know slaves in Jamaica predominantly came from West Africa, but my maternal grandfather is the only non-fair-skinned of my grandparents. My maternal grandmother always likes to say she’s a Jew (despite the fact that she was baptized Catholic and converted to Anglicanism). All of those things together and I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that I never wanted to confirm — I’m probably more white than I am black. Enter my Ancestry DNA test:
My genetic profile revealed that I am: 22% Ivory Coast/Ghana, 15% Iberian Peninsula, 13% Scandinavia, 12% Ireland/Scotland/Wales, 11% Nigeria, 9% Cameroon/Congo, 5% European Jewish, 3% Finland/Northwest Russian, 3% Benin/Togo, 1% Great Britain, 1% South Europe, 1% East Europe, and a smattering of less than 1% Senegal, Caucus, Africa North, Asia Central, Mali, and Europe West. What a mix up — it’s as if the shades of my skin from Summer to Winter tell an even more meaningful story of my ancestry now.
It took a while to unpack all this information, to be honest, I’m still unpacking it. At this point, a lot of this is up for interpretation, because I didn’t get any ancestral matches. I haven’t discovered any cousins or siblings I never knew about, but I didn’t expect to. By the numbers, a tad more than 45% of my genetic makeup is of African descent, and a tad over 51% is of European descent. There’s a tiny spec of Central Asia, which kind of makes me laugh. So there I stared at my screen — my maternal grandmother was right, she’s at least part Jewish, and my paternal grandfather was not only French, but Catalan French — hence the Iberian Peninsula bit. But what of the rest of it? My friend asked me what Jollof rice I’m repping and I guess from here on out, the answer should be Ghanaian, although with that 9% Nigerian, I can do what I want. Also, where did the Scandinavia come from? A little reading revealed that they were travelers, they visited North America before Columbus ‘discovered’ it. So, I guess my always-exploring spirit has a kinship there. I’m putting the Ireland, Scotland, and Wales bit in the good old colonial slavery bucket for now — my mom made light of it by saying “that explains why you love Guinness so much.” All-in-all, it’s been an interesting read — I’ve got a lot of ancestral pilgrimages to add to my travel bucket list. I’m waiting on my sister to do hers so that we can compare them. Stay tuned for Part II…
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