As a descendant of slaves, I expect that most of my ancestors lived in West Africa. In addition, I’ve been told that my grandfather is half Cherokee Nation, which would mean that I have a small percentage of Native American ancestry.

However, as I’ve only been able to trace my father’s father’s lineage, it would be hard for me to posit an intelligent guess. Whatever the results are, they will be revelatory and informative.

The best possible result is the test itself. I don’t have much insight into where the vast majority of my ancestors may have originated or settled. So gaining even the vaguest sense of my origins, while maybe seeing through a glass darkly, fills me with a sense of excitement that has been dormant for a while.

I confess to being fascinated by my own reaction to this exercise. While I’ve been long comfortable dealing with and discussing the cultural and socioeconomic issues surrounding race/ethnicity, I’d thought myself past questioning my own origins. This reawakened desire to know surprises and delights me, but it also brings into stark relief (and deepened empathy) the desire of many people to shape possibilities from their past.

Will anything I learn fundamentally change who I am? Is any part of who my ancestors were determinative? I say yes, but for a multitude of reasons that are, thankfully, less salient today.


This post was first published on the blog site Anthropology While White.