On My African DNA Heritage

I admit I didn’t know this before I had my DNA ancestry testing done.

I’d like to open by stating clearly that, while a new discovery, I’m happy and proud of my significant, and widespread African ancestry. While my overall percentage is fairly low, by comparison to the rest of my DNA, 2.5%, that amount represents ancestry from, Sub-Saharan African, Western African, North African and Arabian, Western Asian (Mesopotamia), and Western Asian North African. That covers nearly the entire continent of Africa. Each 0.1% of DNA can represent separate ancestral grandparents, so my 2.5 %, from the entire  African continent, represents many different forebears from that region. I think it is highly likely that my mother’s ancestors were active in Spain and the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe. We know Spain was controlled by the Carthaginians, the Romans, and the Muslim North African Moors, before being reconquered by the Romans, and then Christians and the Knights Templar, Europeans we now call Spaniards. Then these very same ancestors migrated to the New World, to the Caribbean, to Mexico, and then to the “Californian” region before it was part of the USA. It’s possible that once in the Caribbean, additional African DNA came from African people living in the Caribbean. Obviously, the new World African DNA will include some legacy of slavery, but also recall the first slave rebellions and revolutions throughout South and Central America that gave freedom and citizenship to all those of African descent in the newly formed American nations. Ancestry from former slaves also includes ancestry from people that rose up and fought for their freedom, and won. Once the African peoples of the Americas had won their freedom, they fought to keep it on the  Western Frontier of the United States, on the beaches of Normandy, in the trenches of Korea, the Jungles of Vietnam… I’m reminded of two of my Drill Sargents at basic training for the Army. Drill Sargent Peacock was 101’st Airborne, tough as nails, and the lead Drill Sargent. Drill Sargent Wyatt was female, but just as tough and disciplined. Drill Sargent Wyatt was more fair, but you could earn Drill Sargent Peacock’s respect, if you kicked major butt in training, and  he was cool too.

I’m not naive to overly aggrandize or place a overly positive slant on the treatment of people of darker skin color, by most nations of the Americas.We all know there is a lot of friction and conflict over skin color in society, still today, decades after the Civil War that ended legalized slavery. The rise of nationalism and nation states in post colonial a post slavery world, was one of  massive conflict and years of challenging mistrust. Still today, we have vestiges of prejudice, and color based bias, by members of the government and the police. In addition to the problem of systemic color based bias, we also have more progress than much of the rest of the world. Many Americans are mixed. Mixed ancestry is a challenge because nobody wants to accept you  at first. You have to prove yourself to everyone. Mixed ancestry is going to become more the normal, more common, as time goes on, and the average skin tone of the world population will steadily migrate to the middle, as the world continues to blend beyond what planes, trains, automobiles, ships, and love have already created.

I get really dark when I am in the sun for any amount of time. I don’t know why, I have many black, olive, white and brown skinned ancestry groupings, so I cannot say with certainty where I get my complexion.  I don’t sunburn easily, and if I do, it quickly peels and turns dark. I used to run a lot for college and high school cross country. I would get really dark. The old ladies, in Redding, would always comment, “My how dark your skin gets.” I used to think they were jealous because I could get a tan, and they couldn’t, but I don’t think that is what they were really thinking when they said that. I remember a lady in the candy store accusing me of stealing candy one time. “You go to St. Joseph’s the Catholic School, you should be ashamed of yourself.” Of course, I should have immediately told her, “No,” because I had not stolen any candy, and my pockets only had some light bulbs I found while walking around doing nothing with nothing to do. I meekly protested and emptied my pockets to reveal I had nothing. She just moved on like nothing had ever happened. I stood there shaking in rage and violation. I had been her target for no other reason than I looked a little darker than the other children in the store. None of them were accused. The funny thing is that my stories, while real and mine, are not that severe. I have other stories, more extreme, but I will save those for another post. Suffice it to say that I have learned that people of any given skin color can be good or bad, and it takes getting to know someone and the content of their character, over time, before you can really know something important or significant about that person. I have been misled or mistaken by skin color so many times, that now I know better. I never judge a book by the cover, but I am more than willing to judge a person by their actions and the content of their character, no matter their skin color.

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