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The Urban Erma by Leighann Lord: Who Am I? DNA Don’t Lie
I wish I could say that I got myself DNA tested because of some deep desire to know who my ancestors are. If you’re African- or Caribbean-American you just accept the fact that you’re mixed. I wanted to get the lowdown on my ancestral DNA for the same reason I’ve considered getting my masters degree in sociology: for the jokes.
For years I’ve harbored the suspicion that there’s some Asian DNA lurking in my bloodline. When I was 17-years-old a cab driver told me that when I smiled I looked Chinese. Yes, I was young and naive enough to think this man knew what he was talking about. Of course my lack of mathematical acuity doesn’t support this and why today I don’t advocate talking to cab drivers.
My ancestral DNA test results revealed that I am 67% Sub-Saharan African and 33% European. Forty-seven countries make up Sub-Saharan Africa. That narrows it down from a total of 54 but not by much. My people could hail from:
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia or Zimbabwe.
I’ve shortened the list by deciding that my family couldn’t possibly be from countries I can’t pronounce. I also feel comfortable removing Rwanda, Nigeria, and Djibouti. Rwanda has tribal complications that I could never hope to truly understand. You say Hutu, I say Tutsi and suddenly everybody’s running around trying to kill the whole thing off.
I pass on Nigeria because I already get too much email. And while I may never again see my $137.16 that my good friend, and deposed prince, Babadeinde said he desperately needed, I sincerely hope that my modest contribution helped restore him and his family to their rightful royal rule.
Djibouti is geographically part of Sub-Saharan Africa but is politically considered North Africa. Either way it was not the Africa I dreamt of when I got the opportunity to go there as part of an Armed Forces Entertainment comedy tour. I thought it would be like going home to the Motherland. But with the debilitating heat, aggressive poverty, and bold street vendors that make Jamaicans look demure, Djibouti felt more like the Step-Motherland.
Of course I was tickled to see that South Africa is on the list of possibilities since I’m from the “Free Mandela”-Lady Smith Black Mambazo generation; not so thrilled that it’s considered the rape capital of the world. Hasn’t my bloodline suffered enough?
I guess I was most disappointed to learn that I’m not from Egypt. There is a deeply held delusion … I mean conviction … within the American Black community that we are all descended from kings and queens. All of us. Every single one of us. This is, of course, statistically impossible. Some of us had to have hailed from farmers, teachers, and stock brokers. But that doesn’t have the same caché.
As an African American what I have always found most challenging is meeting white Africans: White people who are born in Africa. None of us can choose the place of our birth. That comes down to where the water breaks. But right or wrong, the very existence of white Africans always feels like “Fuck you.”
It’s not a big shock that some of my ancestors came from Europe. Math is not my strong suit, but colonization equals miscegenation is a pretty simple equation. I was however surprised at the number: 33%? That makes me a full one third European and it explains a lot. Maybe my love of English accents, German precision and Italian shoes isn’t all that shallow after all?
But what happens now? Do I get a break on the dollars-to-euro exchange rate? Should I offer to buy my neighbor’s house for a necklace and then proceed to colonize my entire block? Should I have dated more white guys? I do love a man in a kilt.
The hardest thing to accept is that this knowledge really doesn’t change anything. No country, Sub-Saharan or otherwise, has rushed in to claim me. I guess subconsciously I’d been hoping that my cheek swab would reveal a little more specificity, like the name and address of someone wealthy. Maybe I shouldn’t be too quick give up on my very good friend Prince Babadeinde. There’s a 67% chance that we could, after all, be family. Maybe, that’s how he found me in the first place.
© 2012 Leighann Lord
A very funny lady on the stage and on the page, stand-up comedian Leighann Lord pens a weekly humor column with topics ranging from the personal to the political, from the silly to the sophisticated. Reminiscent of a modern day Erma Bombeck (famed nationally syndicated humor columnist), a fan dubbed Leighann, “The Urban Erma” and the name stuck. It’s a fun, fast read that leaves you laughing, or at least wondering why we don’t have a comprehensive mental health care plan. Follow Leighann on Twitter and be a fan on Facebook.