Like many other sane individuals, I paid a company $79 for the privilege of spitting in a tube to await an email with secrets about my heritage. Well, the results are in, and I was surprised to learn that I am, in fact, white.
Yet another sound financial decision on my part.
Well, it didn’t say that I was white, but the analysis did conclude that I am 99.4% European (and over 95% Northwestern European). Zero surprise there. My freckles and love for potatoes betrayed me years ago. But the mysterious remaining 0.6%, which isn’t much from a statistical perspective, was interesting in that 0.5% was identified as Native American and the remaining 0.1% West African. That surely hasn’t shown up in the mirror before.
The explanation shared that I most likely have a great (unknown number of great) grandparent born in the 18th century that was 100% Native American and another possibly even farther removed that was 100% West African. This explanation combined with a little reflection led me to suspect that such relationships may not have been consensual. Who knows, maybe theirs was a beautiful story of forbidden love, but the odds argue for something more sinister. This was not a happy thought.
I understand the basic logic behind the refusal to accept responsibility for the sordid history of one’s family, ethnicity, nation, gender, religion, or any other identity, but I simply cannot accept an arrangement where one can take pride in the past accomplishments of one’s particular heritage without owning the bad parts, too. It seems to me to be a package deal.
I didn’t have to pay good money to spit in a tube to be reminded that I think such a thing. But I did. And I do.
Pepperdine Law’s graduation ceremony occurred last Friday at Alumni Park, and the venue is simply unbeatable — a spacious green lawn on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean under the warm California sun. Spectacular.
Having recently resigned from the law school, I had no official responsibilities at graduation, but having recently resigned from the law school, I had hundreds of reasons to be there. I ran into several friends on the way in, and knowing how graduation works decided to wander over to the place where the graduates would march in to see if I could offer a high five or two as they passed by. (I really did not know that this would produce a lead candidate for my life highlight reel.)
I was dean of students when the Class of 2017 began its law school adventure and had the honor of welcoming them aboard on their very first day as well as cheering for them on their arduous journey. There was no way that I would miss this culminating event. As I stood there on Friday, my high five or two suddenly became a line full of hundreds of high fives and hugs. It was an amazing experience for me. At one point I wondered if I was holding up the ceremony, but then I remembered that they couldn’t fire me and just kept hugging these wonderful human beings.
Several mentioned that they remembered to “follow through” as they passed by, letting me know that they remembered the little talk that I gave during their law school orientation when I taught them how to shoot a basketball. I explained that you could do everything right but forget to “follow through” and the shot would be unsuccessful. I gave them a little stress ball that looked like a basketball that day with the words FOLLOW THROUGH printed on.
They remembered. And they surely followed through, and I am proud of them.
I stuck around afterward and met family and friends and posed for pictures and offered congratulations. It was their day of honor, but the warm smiles and good hearts of the Class of 2017 provided a happy day for me, too.