Who am I?

This, I presume, is the quintessential and existential question that we all ask ourselves. Who am I? Where do I come from? (and sometimes: Where am I going?). In a world where there are more people, more connectivity, and just “more” – we seem to be more lost and alone than ever before. I know that I am.

We have apps to track our location (some we willingly turn on and others we are unaware of); gadgets for heart rate, exercise and all sorts of biometric data; cookies and “terms and agreements” that we just click on in order to keep doing what we do; and the list can go on. I am tech savvy, but there is still a lot that goes straight over the top of my head. Now, we have the ability to send our DNA to central hubs and find out the “where” of “where do I come from?”. What I find most interesting is that part of that process is that we give permission to that agency to keep our DNA on file and compare it to the millions of other samples they get.

Now look, I believe in the advancement of science. Will my results, when compared with the millions on file, show how combinations of ethnic cultures have evolved to their environment? Is there some commonality in certain strands being in certain places in respect to the ability to fight disease and virus’? I do not believe in eugenics. It is a hard line for me that we do not meddle with our inherited characteristics. However, it is a different matter to understand them. It is different to understand why certain things will / may be inherited – it is against my beliefs to meddle for the “perfect human”.

The short version of all of the above is that I went and got a DNA test. The results were not what I was expecting. But I did spend an hour or two having a good giggle over those results. I knew (and have since been vindicated) that my family would not take it well. As background, I have always been raised to believe I am descended from Irish, French and Mauritian immigrants to South Africa. It was a point of pride that the Irish side could be traced back 8 generations, and the French side about 5 generations. The fact that I have darker skin was immaterial. I have never shied away from the fact that somewhere, someone had a multi-racial relationship. As an anecdote, a specialist (brain) asked me why my skin was so dark, and I mentioned the French-Mauritian connection, and he went “oh a mulatto”. Yes, offensive, yes within the last 5 years. Material to me? No. I had never walked away from that possibility and the doctor was just being an idiot.

However, I digress. Our point of pride is mentioned above – and believe me when I say my family have founded so much of their identity on this information. So imagine my surprise (and pure glee) when I discovered that my DNA reads as follows: 58% South East England; 18% Germanic Europe; 8% Southern India; 4% Scotland; 3% Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu Peoples; 3% Southern Bantu Peoples & 3% Ireland. The last 6% is made up of 6 different regions. The Irish is almost non-existent and as for French or Mauritian, it does not even show. I finally had proof that in my family, some of the folk were not as concerned with race as the last 2 generations have been. In an attempt to whitewash the family tree, they simply ignored that part of our heritage.

I want to embrace it. Ok, part of that is me being petty, but I want to embrace that part of my heritage. It shows me proof that my ancestors did immigrate to South Africa via Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back in the day). It shows how they assimilated into their local society and that they loved freely. Did they suffer persecution – possibly? Somewhere along the line though – some mother (and it had to be a female in my family as they are way less tolerant than the males) decided that acknowledging those relationships would not advance the family and so it was all wiped out and a new heritage was concocted. It is interesting how the “black” part of my heritage is inherited from both parents in almost equal measure. The knowledge that 58% of my heritage is Southern East England, also leads to the migration of so many British to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) back in 1940s – 1960s. Hearing my mothers memories about her childhood lends credence to the results.

A new puzzle to sort out.

Besides that I am learning that if I thought I was over COVID, almost a year later, that I really am deluded and living in a dream world. Fatigue is again my best friend. I am sure that in the break I had another mild bout (did not show on a test though) because now, being hit by a bus seems like a walk on a cool day in my favourite spot. No complaining though – I have much to be grateful for.


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