I realised the other day that I’m not quite as “black” as I thought I was.
That’s all thanks to 23andMe, a health and ancestry DNA startup.
The reason I’m using “black” in quotation marks is because, in my opinion, there’s no such thing as being “black,” “white,” “Asian,” “Latino,” etc. (more on that later). We are who we are. What matters the most is who we are at our core.
My entire life, people have looked at me and have only seen a “black” girl. Growing up, people never asked me about my heritage because they assumed, just by my appearance, that all of my DNA originated from Africa.
I remember my dad told me at one point that there was some Irish on his side of the family (Dickey is an Irish name). But when I told people about this fun fact about my heritage, they seemed to dismiss it.
Well, now I have the proof to back it up.
It turns out that about 25% of my DNA comes from Europe, some of which comes from northern Europe. The vast majority, roughly 70%, unsurprisingly comes from Sub-Sahara Africa. But there’s even a little bit of East Asian and Native American in me.
Learning that information has drastically changed the way I think about race and identity. But it also confirms what I’ve known for most of my life, which is that race is a social construct. We as a society have defined what it means to be “white” or “black.”
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Finland for the first time.
There was just something about Helsinki that made me feel right at home, even though I was thousands of miles away from “home.” I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but maybe it’s because deep down, I knew that at least a part of me came from that region.
So in the future when people ask, “What are you?” I’ll simply say, “Megan Rose Dickey, and that’s all you really need to know.”
Besides helping you figure out your ancestry composition, 23andMe tests your DNA to determine which drugs your body responds to, and how prone you are to health issues such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and Breast Cancer.
All you have to do is request a spit kit for $US99, provide 23andMe with a saliva sample, and send in your results. Within a few weeks, you’ll receive a treasure trove of information about what your DNA says about you.
Founded in 2006 by Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe has raised about $US68 million.
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