2017 and 2018 have been years of exploration and discovery for me so far. I’ve taken time to examine a lot about my identity as a black biracial dude and started to look into family dynamics and how they relate to that identity politic.
To up that ante, I’ve also begun digging into my ancestry DNA, curiously scratching that “Where does my family come from?” itch. I got my results back—I’m going to Wakanda, if you’ll remember—and it created an interesting internal controversy: I don’t know who to root for in the World Cup.
My largest percentage of DNA came from Eastern Europe at 27 percent—Grandpa Richard is from Poland. Next in line was Cameroon/Congo at 14 percent. While Nigeria wasn’t far behind at 11 percent, I decided that I’m just going to run with this whole Cameroon/Congo thing.
And what better time to do that than—drum roll, please—the 2018 FIFA World Cup being held in Russia this June and July? Except neither Cameroon nor the Congo qualified. Lucky for me—those family reunions could get really contentious; plus, how would I pick which country to pull for? (Though Cameroon’s jerseys are totes awesomesauce.) But alas, neither made it. That’s OK; our jollof rice is better than everybody’s anyway. Also, I’ve never had Cameroonian jollof rice before, but that’s just splitting hairs.
Nigeria did qualify, though. WE IN THERE! RIGHT? RIGHT?! But so did Germany, Poland, France and Panama. Dammit.
Here’s where my conundrum comes into play: Because I grew up in Germany, I typically pull for them in a detached, “They’re always there, but damn that’s a lot of white guys, which really gives me the red ass, but I did grow up in Frankfurt” kind of way. If the United States Men’s National Team is there, then of course I’m pulling for them.
Well, Germany is there again, and the U.S. men’s team is not. So Germany is the default. My fiancee is from Ghana, so I’d also throw a few fist pumps at the Ghana Black Stars squad even though they’re usually too busy being supermodels to notice. But they didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup, either.
Panama also qualified for the first time ever, and it’s like, awww. So I feel a certain kinship with the birthland to show them some love. And I’m more Polish (at 27 percent) than anything else, but that’s like, waaaaaay too many white dudes, and by “waaaaaay too many” I mean, like, holy shit, that’s a lot of -skis and names that feature z’s, y’s, c’s and k’s. France, on the other hand, is where my mother is from, and Grandma is a straight French OG. Plus, there are always Africans on France’s team.
Poland is easily out—I only have one memory of my grandfather—which leaves me largely with Germany (default when USA isn’t present), Panama (birthright), France (familial reasons) and Nigeria (AncestryDNA told me that them’s my peoples, too). Now, because I’m rooting for everybody black, the EASY money is on Nigeria.
But that creates a whole new set of problems: If I start rooting for Nigeria, then I feel like I have to actively wade into the Jollof Wars, and I live with a Ghanaian. Am I really ready to say that Nigerian jollof is better than Ghanaian jollof rice at family events, especially when we all know Cameroonian is the best anyway?
I mean, I am more Nigerian than Ghanaian. But this is really just for World Cup purposes because again, Cameroon/Congo came through with more DNA anyway. If either of those teams was in the World Cup, this wouldn’t even be a question, but they didn’t make it. So here we are, worrying about rice and football.
My heart is telling me to pull for Nigeria—you know, rooting for everybody black again (thanks, Issa)—but again, then I have the jollof war in my own house, so maybe that’s just not the best move. I’d like to pull for Germany again, since they just won and it always gives me a good chance at rolling with a winner, but they had a total of ONE black dude on their last World Cup squad, and he was a Ghanaian-German dude. His name is Jerome, so it helped, but still. Maybe I’ll lay low on Germany. I haven’t been to Panama since I was born (a shame, I know), so it really is support in name only.
That leaves France, which is at least direct lineage, and they’re winners, plus Paul Pogba! Maybe I’ll pull for France and silently root for Nigeria while eating Ghanaian jollof rice, which isn’t as good as it used to be now that I’m more Nigerian. I don’t know and this is hard work. Who knew finding out who you are could be so confounding?
Bruh, this ancestry thing is exciting ... and exhausting. And I still don’t know who to root for. I need some rice.