It seems obvious that we recognize ourselves as complex creatures, shaped by multiple layers of identity that make us who we are. But for many of us, discovering our ancestral roots can be a profound experience that changes or expands the way we see ourselves and the world around us.
Recently, I received my DNA results, and they showed that I am 48.7% European and 48.1% Sub-Saharan African. For someone who was raised as a Black American under the historical veil of the 1 drop rule intended to preclude human and political rights for anyone with Black blood, this was a significant revelation.
Looking at myself in the mirror, my face, my features, my hair – they all take on a new meaning. I realize that I am not the monolith I once believed, and claimed, myself to be. Rather, I am a global citizen, shaped by the rich tapestry of my ancestry that is reflected in the work that I do and the values that I uphold.
Beyond the personal impact, this clarity makes me consider how the same might impact the status, stature, and success of future generations and our national and global concept of community. Limited notions of identity create barriers to progress and understanding.
We live in a world where labels and categories are often used to divide us. We are categorized by race, gender, religion, culture, etc. But these labels are often too narrow and do not fully represent the complexity of our identities. When we embrace the fullness of our heritage, we are no longer limited and we can create an identity based on character and values, finally free to express ourselves authentically and pursue our passions without fear of judgment or rejection.
I believe this knowledge and understanding can have a positive impact on our children who can grow up with a fuller understanding of their identity, their heritage, and themselves. I hope it will help them navigate the complexities of the world and inspire them to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
It’s worth noting that the experience of discovering one's ancestral roots can be complicated, especially for Black Americans who have been historically disenfranchised and stripped of their cultural heritage. It's not uncommon for Black Americans to believe that they have Indigenous American blood. This may have been due to a desire to disconnect from the atrocities of enslavement, claim an identity outside of the narrow definitions of race imposed by society, or it could be a result of the erasure of Black American history. In my own family, I was repeatedly told by my grandparents and great-grandparents that I had Indigenous American ancestry, only to discover through my DNA results that I only have 2.3%.
I want to emphasize that discovering the truth about our ancestral roots is not just about understanding who we are as individuals, but also about creating a more inclusive and prosperous world for all. For me, this means focusing on creating avenues for elevated prosperity which I define as a state of well-being that encompasses emotional, psychological, physical, and financial security and safety. It's a dynamic state that requires us to actively engage with our communities and the world at large, using our skills and knowledge to create positive change and contribute to the common good.
I hope we all embrace the complexity of our identities and use our unique perspectives to build a brighter future for ourselves and for generations to come. Together, we can create a world where diversity is celebrated, and elevated prosperity is attainable for all.
I am confident that we can achieve this goal with unwavering faith, determination, and persistence.