But I'm not any run-of-the-mill white guy — I am literally tied with several millions of other Caucasians as the whitest human on the planet. I am a walking human flashlight. Polar bears ask me what my secret is. Off-duty mimes throw money at me on the street. I could sue dry-erase boards for copyright infringement.
This information was recently delivered to me by the world of science. A few months ago, I took a DNA test to determine my ancestors' country of origin, and as it turns out, I am 100% European. The most eclectic my family lineage gets is my 0.6% Italian heritage, which is ironic, as 90% of the food I consume involves either pizza or pasta. That one Italian that sneaked into my bloodline must have been a pretty persuasive guy.
Here's how it works: You pay $200, a kit is sent to your house, and you spit into a tube until it fills up to a line — then you mail it back in. True story — in order to get enough saliva to fill the spit tube, I held a Big Mac in front of my face to get my mouth to water. I thought the test was going to show I had descended from McDonaldland, and Grimace was my third great-grandfather.
For weeks, I waited to see my results. And when they finally arrived, I experienced a completely unexpected sensation: I was really bummed out.
I admit, I was provoked to take the DNA test by the variety of ancestry shows that have cropped up over the past few years. On a show like Finding Your Roots, a celebrity will typically take a DNA test, then find out their lineage is far more diverse than they expected, spanning multiple continents and ethnicities.
The lesson I've taken from these shows is that despite our racial differences, we are all genetically interconnected. We all share DNA with others we wouldn't expect to share DNA with, making us a complicated community of relatives. According to a 2014 study published in the
Granted, it is far less likely for self-described
I got none of this. It's like America is holding a genetic party, and I'm standing outside while the bouncer taps his foot and glares.
I will concede that American minorities may have little sympathy for my plight. They would point out that being white in America is a pretty good gig. (Comedian
On top of that, behind the genetic mixing I find admirable are some horrifying realities. African-Americans often carry a heavy load of European DNA because they were forced to procreate against their will. In Louisiana and South Carolina, heavy slave-trading states, more than 12% of European Americans have more than 1% African DNA, far higher than the rest of the nation. Further, of European Americans with at least 1% African ancestry, the African DNA is 15% more likely to be on the
That's not to say my relatives always had it easy. Many of them came from Germany and Sweden on crowded boats in the 19th century, risking everything to make it here. My ninth great-grandmother is
But it does suggest that, historically, my relatives have lived segregated lives, away from anyone who didn't look like them. Maybe this was just a product of geography; maybe it was intentional.
This, naturally, leads any white person to ponder the awkward question of what his or her family thought about race relations. And it smacks a modern European American in the face with perhaps the most uncomfortable question of all: If it was you in that situation, what would your attitude about blacks have been?
And perhaps this is why I so wanted to be more genetically diverse; in a small way, maybe I thought it could inoculate me against such a segregated lineage. (Then again, if I did have African DNA, there is a chance a direct relative was a slaveholder and a rapist.)
Maybe the DNA test is wrong. I've always been skeptical. But if this report is right, in the future when genetic lines are even blurrier, I will be the "Caucasian" statue in the Smithsonian. Maybe the test was unnecessary; I did, after all just pay $200 for a ticket to see
I found that essay to be troubling, and for the life of me I can't figure out why.
Maybe one of you field hands can help me out by telling me exactly what it is that Christian Schneider is trying to say.
*Image from npr.org