Am I White?


Enoch Marple1790-1886
My great-great Grandfather, a typical Englishman named Enoch from the mid 1700’s

I sent my DNA spit-sample to Ancestry.com and discovered I am:

  •  36% Scandinavian
  •  28% Europe Western
  •  20% Irish
    • 9% Ibero-European-mostly centered in France and Spain
    • 1% Mali
    • 1-2% South Indian
    • 1-2% Caucasus

I’m mostly white. That is, if the Western European percentage is still considered mostly white. I imagine they were swarthy. Some of my ancestors came from the Middle East…is that white or not? If not; then I am about two-thirds white. That is, my family is mostly Swedish, some English and a little Irish. That is certain from my father’s careful forty-year study of our genealogy. So I’m pretty white, I suppose. Actually, my skin is pretty transparent-you can actually see my blue veins through my skin… I am pasty white-like plaster, the underside of a mushroom white or a fish’s belly. I am so white I’m reflect-the-sunshine-white. I should be called “Snow White”. When I go out in the sun I burn bright red and blister within minutes…I don’t tan. I am actually allergic to the sun. So I live in the north where most of the year is colorless like me (except my odd, blue-green eyes).

I guess I take after my mother’s, mother’s, Eichman family who  came from somewhere in Austria-Hungary but more likely they were generally Celtish. Her father’s Conklin forebears were Irish and Welsh. My short, tough, feisty little mom, with her tiny feet was of nominal Welsh/German ancestry. They came to America to escape the Great Potato Famine and the rigors of mining. Poor, and decrepit they washed up on the shores of the American East Coast- met and married in Prescott.

Still, all in all, I really look white. Even my hair is now grey, streaked with pure white. I like to eat white foods like sugar, fish, potatoes, cake and bread. I’m allergic to shellfish. I speak Spanish and French haltingly-those are “white” languages. My red-headed gramma, Elin Ackenbohm, was from the southern plains of Linkoping, Sweden. Her people were probably farmers. My very tall, dark-haired and hawk-nosed aunt, Ina, was a dark Swede (my dad said) but she spoke fluent Swedish. My grandad Charles Marple’s ancestors were Quakers who came from England and Wales.

But go figure! The DNA test shows that I have genetic ancestors in Mali, Africa. Like a classic Mediterranean soup, I am also 1% black and 2% South Indian. Some people say that if I have any other racial characteristics, I am not white.

Is it a coincidence that all of my life I have wanted to sojourn to Timbuktu, an ancient dusty city in the African desert? The Mali Empire was a center of Muslim scholarship. It is still a wonderful and mysterious desert place. The Kingdom of Tombuto was probably founded in 1213 or 1214. Maybe my relatives could have wandered through there in those days.

South Indian? Like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. I long desired to take the Orient Express and adventure the mountain ranges of the Himalaya, & Hindu Kush. Twenty years ago I planned to be a hospital missionary in Kathmandu, a city high in the Himalayas. Going more south, perhaps I am a distant relative of the famous Indian Mahatma Gandhi! Oddly, I thought my mom even looks East Indian and we shared an inordinate interest in ancient Buddhist beliefs. I mentored a little girl Nayani from Sri Lanka for many years and I just love two elaborately decorated elephants like those from S. India on the shelf in my kitchen. They are very out-of-place there among my other artifacts. Could my genes have travelled to Europe via a Mongolian Sherpa family from the steep slopes of the Himalayas or perhaps through the daughter of a fierce Gurkha fighter? My luck? More likely members of the lowest Indian caste, the Dalit, and total outcasts of society.

So if I am Caucasian, I’d come from the Caucasus region- extending from the Anatolian Peninsula and the nation of Turkey, (bordered by the Mediterranean), to the Caucasus Mountains, which form its northern boundary along Russia’s southwestern edge. There, the nations of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are nestled in the highlands between the Black and Caspian Seas. In the south, it stretches from Syria to Iran, reaching all the way to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

A historical fascination I had as a child was the archaeological excavation of Troy. Remember the story of Troy in the Iliad- Homer’s retelling of when Mycenaean Greeks laid siege to the ancient Lydian city of Troy? This was most likely part of the ancient Hittite Empire. Am I related to powerful King Cyrus who freed the Jews from slavery in Babylonia? Is my blood linked with Cyrus’s descendants Darius and Xerxes? The arrival of Turkic peoples from Central Asia brought the Turkish language and Islam to the west.

Am I white? Probably not in “essence”. I am mongrel. I am a typical American, a product of thousands of years of miscegenation, of global culture-clashing and washing. Imagine a cosmic genetic mixing bowl or a DNA blender. My RNA and DNA are multi-colored and multi-directional. If I transplant to Mars, am I still American? If I am on a wandering space-ship, does it matter if I am white, yellow, red, brown, or black? Does my skin color define my essence? I’ve read about sloths that have changed their behavior and thus color by slowing down and absorbing green chlorophyll in their fur so they can camouflage their real color. Maybe that’s why young people are tattooing themselves and dying their hair in crazy colors. It is their camouflage.

I am a Jesus follower by my choice but not by my birthright, since a few of people in my genetic line were most likely Mohammedans. Some would say I need to split my fractured body and soul and send it back where it came from like small splintered shards of glass from a broken vase. Do you?

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