No, this blog isn’t some cheesy literary spoof of 50 Shades of Grey. Instead, I wrote it to explain why I quite literally have no interest in doing a “23 and Me” ancestry test. In fact, if I were going to do one, I’d actually need to conduct 5 of them because I’m of mixed ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, Filipino, Native American, and French (hence, my last name). So tell me: which ethnicity would I choose?
I’m thoroughly content being of mixed ethnicity. I grew up multicultural and -racial and was able to experience different foods, customs, and freely travel across ethnic boundaries. For example, my culinary palate included hot water cornbread and Southern fried chicken, homemade tortillas and tamales, chicken adobo and chocolate meat (pork butt roast, cooked pig’s blood, vinegar, and garlic over rice), Indian bread and specially-prepared fish and wild game, and other distinct foods. Who in their right mind would give all this up, right?!
My familial social circle was undeniably inclusive. I grew up attending family functions that included members mixed with White, various Native American tribes, Filipino, etc. And I enjoyed the diversity of family and friends. Then gangs entered into the equation and previous solidarity among family and friends fractured into factions. Many chose sides but I refused.
My family and friends splintered because of gangs, and I hated it. They asked me to join them and I said I would never choose to love one and hate the other based on color of a rag (a bandana) or of skin. The same went for prison. I arrived to prison and people asked, “What car [ethnic group] do you ride with?” “None,” I said, “I was raised with and am connected to all prison group ethnicities.” I could not face a family member who was part White, Filipino, Black, or Native and hate him because of his race. Groups respected my stance and didn’t venture to push the issue.
In prison, I roam freely and interact with all groups without issue. However, the ethnicity I gravitate to most in terms of respect, demeanor, and morals is Asian, and in terms of sensitivity to racial prejudice, Black. But I explained to various groups that I stand for what’s right, not skin color. In other words: if someone is wrong (family, friend, foreigner, or otherwise), I’ll withdraw my support to the extent of wrong (but still love her or him), which precludes supporting violence either way.
I consider myself lucky to be 5 Shades of Jay. I am less inclined to choose sides along racial lines, to use racial slurs, or to disassociate myself from anyone based on race. I hear Whites, Blacks, and others races reference one another using racial slurs and, to an extent, I feel it’s due to them being mono-ethnic and -cultural. But I also see biracial guys doing the same. They choose a side and speak ill of their forfeited racial counterpart. And still, there are Whites who identify more with Blacks and spew hatred against White people.
But then if we were all the same color, for example, like many animals, human beings would find other ways to hate one another. But when facing a common foe or threat (war, for example), we come together as one. It’s extremely similar to a single family–they fight one another, but fight for one another against outside forces. We are truly interesting creatures.
I know that my being 5 ethnic shades isn’t the solution to racial conflict. Experience teaches otherwise. However, a deep love for all races is. Only a general love for mankind–blind to skin color, class, culture, etc.–can solve our social shortcomings. I agree with President Obama, we have more things in common than we have differences. But it will take love to get all of us on the same peaceful page.
This may come as a shock to you, but I literally have no interest in researching and learning anything about any one of my distant ancestors and heritages. Aside from the fleeting interest of discovering a famous relative, I frankly could care less. I don’t mean to eschew or diminish my ancestors in any way. Rather, I prefer to narrow my gaze into the past on my spiritual ancestors of love, to those in the Holy Bible. For it is with them whom I hope to one day join in Heaven.
Over and over in the Bible, Jesus refers to family as those who do the will of His father–God. Accordingly, though I am 5 Shades of Jay, I only have one family, and it is spiritual. Yet I must admit: I still have much work to do as far as showing myself worthy to be included in Jesus’ loving fold.
Jacob J. Gamet
Categories: Jacob J. Gamet