How important is your ethnic heritage to you? What if you knew nothing of your family tree? Would it matter to you? What if all you knew is that your ancestors were slaves? Would you ever wonder what life might have been like if slavery hadn’t happened? The power of heritage and knowing something about it is pretty important to a lot of people. It gives them a sense of identity. Case in point is when an adult learns for the first time that they were adopted and the parents they thought were biological were only adoptive. It causes significant confusion and disorientation for most.
But this morning I was listening this to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Tom Joyner’s morning show (yes, I listen to at times to TJMS, Imus, NPR, and sports-talk (when I want to hear the NY world go nuts over the Red Sox). That probably says a little too much about me…). He was talking about another episode of taking celebrity African Americans to learn what their genealogy and DNA tell them about their heritage. With certain tests, they can fairly accurately tell what percent white, Asian, African, and Native American blood a person has as well as what region of Africa they came from.
Anyway, Gates quoted some interesting statistics:
*12.5 million slaves were abducted to the new world
*Only 500,000 of those slaves came to US soil.
*None of those slaves were from Northern Africa or South African Zulus.
*In a room of 100 random African Americans, 26% likely came from Angola, a smaller percentage came from Nigeria, and 2% from Mozambique.
Why do I care? My youngest son has the look of West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, etc.) while my older son has the look of East Africa (Somalia, Kenya, etc.). Once we were in DC at a hotel when one of the workers came up and asked us where Sam was from. He was Eritrean and said that Sam looked just like one of his family members.
The cost of the DNA tests runs about $300. Sounds like a reasonable price to give my kids some sense of identity that many African American (and also adopted) children find hard to obtain.