I thought I was biracial my entire life. At 43, a DNA test revealed I'm white with Jewish ancestry.
- Kara Rubinstein Deyerin was raised as biracial, but an at-home DNA test showed she's only white.
- She said she found out that she was the product of a one-night stand.
I've always been fascinated by genealogy. But I didn't compose our family tree until I was married with a kid in my late 20s.
I researched it the old-fashioned way, sorting through documents and public records. I already knew that my mom's ancestors were mostly European. My dad, Kenny, who was African-American, descended from slaves who'd been sold in Texas in the 1800s.
It made sense for me to do an at-home DNA test at the age of 43. I received the results in January 2018.
To my shock, the pie chart showed that 50% of my DNA was Ashkenazi Jewish. It also showed that I had zero African DNA.
When I found out, it felt like I'd been punched in the gut
At first, I thought my test had gotten mixed up with someone else's; that there'd been a mistake.
I called my friend and said, "What does this mean?" She said, "I think you know what it means." She went on, "It means that the man who you think is your father isn't your father."
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
People had always told me that I had relatively light skin. They'd say that I'd taken after my mom. But I'd met other people of color who were as light as me. My dad had three other children with white women. I thought that their skin tones weren't that dissimilar to mine.
I told my mom, Joey, about the test results. My mom was stunned. But to her credit, she said: "DNA doesn't lie. It must be true."
My mom had a one-night stand with an older Jewish man
My mom married Kenny on Valentine's Day in 1973. He was 24, and she was 18. Kenny had recently gone into rehab for heroin addiction. But he relapsed two months into their marriage. So they broke up.
A few weeks later, he dropped by to pick up some things he'd left behind. They had one last sexual encounter. This is when my mom thought I'd been conceived.
Once she knew about my DNA results, she told me about a one-night stand she'd had with a much older Jewish man. He was my biological father. They'd had sex about two weeks before her last encounter with Kenny.
I burst into tears when I told Kenny the truth. I thought it would be the hardest conversation of my life. He said: "It doesn't matter to me, baby. You're still my daughter."
Kenny and I had reconciled in my late teens. He'd gotten sober and worked as a drug counselor. In fact, my parents reunited for five years before they broke up again. Kenny died of lung disease in 2020.
My mom always wanted me to know my paternal grandparents, so they were a big part of my life.
I was close to my grandfather, whom I called Pop. He'd remark on my lighter skin, and he'd mention the horrors of slavery. Pop would say to me, "We accept everybody."
I was bullied at school. The kids on the playground called me "Oreo" or "half-caste." But I was proud of my ethnicity.
Looking back, I don't think I fit into a Black or white household. Things have changed now that society is more accepting. I now realize that I was being asked to be something I wasn't.
My biological family wanted nothing to do with me
I traced my paternal family after a match popped up on Ancestry.com in the spring of 2018. It led me to a woman who was my second cousin. She agreed to help, and we triangulated the amount of DNA we shared. We found out the name of my father in the fall of 2018. He'd been a prominent businessperson and philanthropist who'd died 11 years earlier. In 2019, I hired a genetic genealogist who confirmed the information.
My second cousin gave me his photograph. My entire life, I've been told that I have this twinkle in my eye. She told me that my biological father had the same characteristics. "You have his twinkle," she said.
I contacted his immediate family, but they didn't want to know me. It was as if my existence was considered a blemish on his character. It's not my fault that my biological father cheated on his wife.
I would give anything to have met him. I don't know whether he would have accepted or rejected me. It's something I'll never have to face.
My husband, Marcus, and my therapist have helped me understand what it means to be Jewish. I needed to acknowledge my history and legally changed my name last October. It now includes my biological father's last name. I went to an introduction to Judaism class and converted last year.
I cofounded the nonprofit organization Right to Know in 2019. Our Facebook group has more than 1,000 members. With the growing popularity of at-home DNA tests, many people are learning that they're not genetically tied to their mother or father.
An 85-year-old man called our hotline recently. He said, "I just found out my dad isn't my dad." It tugged at my heart. He said, "I want to know who I am before I die."
People like me are entitled to know who their biological parents are, particularly when it comes to their medical history
My youngest son recently had a medical issue that was either related to his kidney or bladder. The doctor wanted to know my family medical history to see which way we should go with testing. You can imagine how frustrating it was not to know.
Our organization is campaigning for a policy change in the US so people like us can make health decisions based on our genetics, like including the genetic parents in the birth certificate of a child even when they have no legal obligation of said child. It's a delicate balance between the right to privacy and the right to know.
Meanwhile, I continue to work on my sense of belonging. But I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am and how I look. I finally have context.
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