They came from good stock

South Florida Times - - OPINION - Toniwg1@gmail.com

Like so many oth­ers, I went in search of my roots.

So, I sent in a bit of my saliva to An­ces­try.Com to have my DNA tested, and to ver­ify what I al­ready knew: I am not 100 per­cent African! Imag­ine.

Once I got over that shock­ing rev­e­la­tion (you can gig­gle here), I reignited a long-run­ning in­ter­nal di­a­logue: Why was know­ing about the bal­ance of my DNA con­trib­u­tors im­por­tant?

I had al­ready bought into the nar­ra­tive that white men raped my black fe­male ances­tors; there has never been any room in my con­scious­ness to har­bor any pos­i­tive feel­ings to­ward them, at all.

Yet, there were mem­bers of my fam­ily who seemed to em­brace their non-African an­ces­try. Bragged about it. Pointed it out in the off­spring, etc.

Ev­ery three years at my dad’s fam­ily re­union, we dis­play a huge fam­ily tree, along with pho­tos, and tell well-re­hearsed sto­ries to each new gen­er­a­tion, about the ori­gins of our four branches; Wil­liams, Waymer, Car­rion and Mur­ray. Some of those ances­tors were white. Most im­por­tantly to me, they chose to live black.

Their sto­ries are "col­or­ful," to say the least.

Often, and much to their cha­grin, my dad greeted his sib­lings, cousins, and other fam­ily mem­bers with a hearty shout, “Hey, all you half breeds.’ Sev­eral did not like that.

Then there is the photo of my mother’s fa­ther- tall, blond, blue eyed, and in death, mis­taken for white; mar­ried my grand­mother-short, dark brown, un­de­ni­ably "Ne­gro."

So what com­pelled me to join le­gions of oth­ers for the ‘miss­ing’ DNA?

I am not par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about any rare or chal­leng­ing in­her­ited health mat­ter that I needed DNA to dis­close; I don’t care about what phys­i­cal traits my chil­dren/grand chil­dren might ex­hibit­beauty is in the eye of the be­holder; I am not con­cerned about out­ward mark­ers of ac­cep­tance into the com­mon so­ci­ety, i.e., I be­lieve that all hair is good, and black is beau­ti­ful.

I al­ready knew who I was, and where I came from.

So, where did my drive to have my DNA ‘tested’ come from?

Cu­rios­ity? Val­i­da­tion? Ac­cep­tance? Also, Meghan Markle’s re­cent mar­riage to Prince Harry has sparked ques­tions; about what it means to be black- any­where in the world.

The ob­vi­ous not­with­stand­ing, as an African Amer­i­can, I have al­ways wanted to know more about the ‘oth­ers’ who con­trib­uted to my ge­netic pool, but only to ver­ify the sto­ries I had been told about cer­tain mem­bers of my fam­ily, and to bet­ter un­der­stand some of their choices.

For in­stance, why did some ances­tors go "white," or how did/does the one-drop rule af­fect per­sonal life-choices?

Can DNA re­veal why some joined re­bel­lions, while oth­ers stayed on the farm?

What about how my fe­male ances­tors re­sponded to the out­side world. Was it an in­side job (DNA) that kept some in bad mar­riages, while oth­ers di­vorced and raised their chil­dren on their own?

I just com­pleted read­ing "The Black Cal­houns" by Gail Lumet Buck­ley, daugh­ter of Lena Horne. Through­out the pages, de­tailed phys­i­cal descriptions are given of the Cal­houns: the women are pretty, the men hand­some; their skin tones range from brown to near- white; they are proud. Their main source of pride? Al­most to a per­son, they were sig­nif­i­cant mem­bers of their so­ci­eties- en­trepreneurs, po­lit­i­cal in­flu­encers, poets, phi­lan­thropists, mostly ‘higher’ ed­u­cated.

Through­out the book, Buck­ley draws par­al­lels be­tween her south­ern and north­ern branches, the im­pli­ca­tions of cul­ture hav­ing the most in­flu­ence on their life­styles, es­pe­cially the women. Buck­ley’s South­ern belle rel­a­tives lived un­der a unique set of codes and ex­pec­ta­tions, and while wealthy, grace­ful, and ed­u­cated, they re­mained in­su­lated by the lim­its im­posed un­der Jim Crow laws, and long-stand­ing south­ern tra­di­tions.

Nev­er­the­less, the fam­ily left their marks, north and south. Why is this im­por­tant? They all shared the same DNA. As my dad would say, “They came from good stock.”

And that has re­mained an open ques­tion for me: which part of the stock is good? The African? The Euro­pean? Or some mag­i­cal com­bi­na­tion?

We know, sci­en­tif­i­cally speak­ing, there is no such thing as race. The DNA that marks racial char­ac­ter­is­tics is not sig­nif­i­cant in hu­man be­ings.

That be­ing said, we still treat race, and racial in­her­i­tance as valu­able.

Why? If you look at the ath­letes who com­pete from around the world, African de­scended peo­ple are be­gin­ning to excel in un­usual events: swim­ming, fenc­ing, luge, etc.

Your first re­sponse might be that blacks have more phys­i­cal abil­ity. Look again. I say, once given the op­por­tu­nity, we do excel. But is that nature or nur­ture?

I be­lieve that af­ter 400+ years in this new world (out­side Africa), our gene pool has ac­cu­mu­lated a col­lec­tion of traits for sur­vival, tenac­ity, brav­ery, courage, ini­tia­tive, and the will to excel against im­pos­si­ble odds.

I am ea­ger for ad­di­tional re­search to de­ter­mine how our var­i­ous mix­tures of DNA ac­tu­ally works.

And, for those of you in search of your an­ces­try, I hope you find much of it from Africa. I’m bet­ting on that be­ing the good stock! Con­tact Us 954.356.9360 • 2701 W Oak­land Park Blvd, Suite 320 • Oak­land Park, FL 33311 • www.SFLTimes.com

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