For my birthday this year, my dad got me a 23andMe DNA kit. As I've been taking Introduction to Africana Studies, I've been talking to my father more about Africana studies and how it would be interesting to know more about my heritage. As most slaves brought to the Americas came from West Africa, I figured, as an African-American, that most of my African DNA would end up being of West African origin. But I was also curious of what my European genes were. My mother, a white American, had told me before that we were Irish but she didn't know the extent of our Irish genes or anything else about her ancestry. I had also been asked about my ethnicity by other people, if I was mixed, Latino, or "just black."
Because of these wonderings, my father saw it fitting to get me a DNA test so all of us could know more about our ancestry. The test consisted of spitting in a tube and sending my spit to the company.
As soon as I got my test results back, I was initially stunned by the percentages: 56.9% European and 40.7% Sub-Saharan African. I was more white than black. This fact left me a tad shell-shocked before I realized that of course I'm going to have more European DNA than African; West Africans had been shipped to America for 200 years until slavery ended in 1865 and with how people of color were being treated in the United States, the odds of a full-blooded African in my line in the past 150 years would be slim. I also knew that my grandma was mixed, which meant I should be about 50/50 with my white and black DNA. But seeing the truth laid out for me, especially with the mix of European DNA I had (British and Irish, French and German, Broadly Northwestern European, and so on), was a strange revelation.
Did any of these ethnicities really play a role in how I lived my life? No.
Would I always be seen as an African-American? No, because people always may see me differently than I see myself.
Would I always be seen as a person of color? Of course.
I think taking a DNA test reveals many scientific truths to you that you may or may not be comfortable with but it shouldn't change your cultural identity. I will always consider myself to be African-American, even though my DNA revealed that I have more European DNA. I also consider myself to be mixed because my mother's heritage is important to me.
Taking a DNA test as an African-American or another minority in America who does not consider themselves mixed may provide some uncomfortable insights because if you are given a percentage of European DNA that you would never have guessed, you'll have to recognize that your ancestors were not in a position to deny white Americans anything. This revelation is something you can acknowledge but it won't take away from your cultural identity if you don't want it to.