Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?

In order to obtain my genetic history earlier this year, I sent a sample of saliva to a DNA outfit and received the results. I wasn’t surprised about my 23% Nigerian ancestry. When I visited Nigeria in 1999, I was told that I had pan-Nigerian facial features. According to the results, I might be pan-African with contributions to my bloodline from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali and Senegal. I’m also 4% Western European, but 15% Scandinavian? How did that get into the mix?

Like Muhammad Ali, members of my generation felt that if some of our ancestors were Europeans, it was the result of the rape of African women by European men.

When I visited a slave castle in Ghana, I discovered that these assaults began even before the slave ships set sail. Muhammad Ali must have been surprised to learn that while his father’s ancestor might have been the victim of sexual assault committed by a slave master, his mother Odessa O’Grady’s ancestor was no slave master, but an Irishman named Abe O’Grady who migrated to the United States. When Ali traveled to Ireland he was greeted by thousands including the relatives of his Irish ancestor, Abe O’Grady. [1]

The fact that millions of blacks have European ancestry renders much speculation about race to be ignorant, including the quack race science hoax that is taken seriously by some of the most sophisticated media.

Like Muhammad Ali, I also have Irish ancestry, which was verified by the results, but until I received the results from Ancestry.com I believed that my European ancestry ended there.

In 1983, I met my brothers on my father’s side. One of my brothers, the distinguished pediatrician, Dr. Michael LeNoir, provided me with photos of my father’s ancestors. One was a photo of a white woman. He speculated that she was Scandinavian. And now, DNA has confirmed this Nordic connection.

Would this explain the lock of red hair that my mother saved from when I was a baby?  When I visited Reykjavik and my hosts invited me to live there for a while did they recognize something about me that I hadn’t noticed? When my hosts in Helsinki invited me to participate in a Summer Solstice rite, during the same tour, from June 11-21, 1985, did they detect the same thing? Is Eric the Red, the Viking, some distant ancestor? No, I don’t plan to buy one of those horned Viking helmets or attend the local symphony’s all-Wagner program.

When one examines the literature of the Far-Right, one finds an invocation of Scandinavian mythology. Some of the images associated with Norse religion were on display at the infamous march of disaffected White men in Charlottesville. The Washington Post reported the use of one symbol: “The sonnenrad or sunwheel is one of a number of ancient European symbols appropriated by the Nazis in their attempt to invent an idealized ‘Aryan/Norse’ heritage.”[2] Patrik Hermansson, a 25-year-old graduate student from Sweden, who went undercover in the world of the extreme Right, found such symbolism during his witness to the riot in Charleston. Posing as a student writing a thesis about the suppression of Right-wing speech, Mr. Hermansson “hung out with heavily armed Holocaust deniers and attended gatherings where extremists drank mead from a traditional Viking horn and prayed to the Norse god Odin. In Charlottesville, he marched alongside hundreds of young neo-Nazis and white supremacists.”[3] Odin is described as the god of war, patron of heroes, and ‘father of the dead.’ Like a lot of pampered men, he is tended to by a group of women called the Valkyrie. According to the Anti- Defamation League, a group called the Soldiers of Odin, which originated in Finland, has adherents in the United States

“Moreover, Soldiers of Odin USA is attracting adherents from both of the two largest segments of the American extreme right—white supremacists and the anti- government extremist “Patriot” movement—and may be the most significant coalition of such extremists in the United States since the early 1990s.”

While the Christian have their Armageddon, for the followers of Odin, the destruction of the world is called Ragnarok. Boy, are we in for it.

One way to test their origins would be for American Nordics to send for their DNA heritage as I did. Would they find that they have some connection to Scandinavia or are they merely engaging in the old American past time: Passing.



[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/charlottesville-videos/

[3] “Undercover With the Alt-Right,” by Jesse Singal, The New York Times,Sept. 19, 2017


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Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.

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