Now I’ve Seen It All
From the Mandinka yell to the Fulani queen strut, discovering your roots inspires a tremendous sense of pride and powerful connection. After more than six years on the front lines of delivering this transformational information, I thought that I had seen every possible type of reaction to finding your family’s roots. People are overwhelmingly happy about their results. But sometimes….the reactions aren’t so positive.
One thing we experience every time we send a batch of results is…the call. The call almost always begins with, “I think you sent me the wrong results”. The call almost always comes from someone who has just received a letter saying that their paternal ancestry is found in Europe. For some reason, probably an emotional one, many people cannot get their heads around the fact that there is a white man in their paternal line. “My father is African American.” “My father is as dark as tar.” These are just two of the many justifications that we get for why there cannot be a white man in their paternal family tree. After about 10 – 20 minutes discussing the behavior of slaveholders and slave traders, the intellectual psyche kicks back in and folks give in to the possibility.
Occasionally we get the call from people who are upset because their results are not Native American. This reaction does not surprise me either. If your family’s oral tradition has told you that your great great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee with long straight black hair and a finely shaped nose, and then we find that her maternal roots are African, I can see where you might be disappointed, upset, or maybe just embarrassed.
But what still has me scratching my head is the call I got from a Black woman who was upset because her paternal roots were AFRICAN! She was ashamed to tell her family that their paternal ancestry was African since they had believed for so long that they were descendants of a plantation owner. One possible explanation was that the story got passed down through the generations incorrectly. Questioning the oral tradition would be difficult. Another possible explanation was that the information showing “mulatto” were recorded incorrectly. Questioning the validity of the genealogy research would also be difficult. And yet another possible explanation was that the man who took the test wasn’t actually part of the family line. That was definitely a can of worms that she didn’t dare (nor did she want) to open.
These experiences reflect the power and emotion involved in discovering your roots. While it is difficult for some of us, for most of us the African Ancestry Experience is deeply enriching and exciting for our entire family. Whatever their origin, our roots are an important part of who we are.