Thursday, May 19, 2016

DNA dilemma for a white guy.

Image result for dna images "I have an announcement: I am white.

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 American Journal of Human Genetics, the average African-American carries 24% European DNA; the average American Latino carries 18% Native American ancestry, 65.1% European ancestry (mostly from the Iberian Peninsula), and 6.2% African ancestry.

Granted, it is far less likely for self-described European Americans to share African DNA. Only about 4% of European Americans carry African DNA. But self-described European Americans also can find DNA from Asia, the Caucasus (Iran, Turkey, Armenia, etc.), from Native Americans, Hispanics and from Ashkenazi Jewish populations.

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 Louis C.K. has a bit about how when time machines are invented, they will be solely a white privilege, as no African-American would choose to visit any time before 1980.)

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 X chromosome, suggesting African female-European male relationships were far more common. But among the disgraces of the past also live inspirational tales of strength and survival. And I want to be connected with the stories of those who endured such struggles. Whether it's those who survived slavery or fought against European settlers in the West or risked their lives on a makeshift raft to float here and experience the American dream, these are all strands in the American fabric. But I'm stuck holding one thread.

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 Mary Towne Esty, who was hanged in Salem for allegedly being a witch. (The evidence against her was that she had a wart, which was used as a "nipple" to "suckle the devil.")

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 Radiohead." [Source]

 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






26 comments:

dinthebeast said...

I don't know, but I can maybe relate to the feeling a little. I've been known to lean on my Irish heritage to seem less European ("they've been fucking with my ancestors for 500 years longer than yours because they could get there in smaller boats" probably isn't exactly true, but you get the picture). Then there's the shame of having to live your entire life knowing that your own mother fucked a white guy...

-Doug in Oakland

lilacpr2000 said...

It's really not too clear to me! Because first he says that indeed we/all humans are genetically connected, then he writes that he though, seems to have just a limited gene background, so I'm not sure as to what exactly he's trying to get across. At least that's my understanding...It's as though he's excluding himself from the rest of the human race lolol,aaah these cray-cray white people!xD

lilacpr2000 said...

I wonder about the efficacy of those tests? Don't sound too reliable to me!

The Ministry of Truth said...

Annoying white guilt syndrome? Too many race and gender studies classes in college? This dude is spending way too much time worrying about whether his ancestors were bad guys. Or convincing himself that he'd be somehow cooler if his ancestors endured more persecution. Or trying to impress the readers with his sensitivity.

All of that is completely pointless, of course. It helps no one in the present. If he's truly concerned about social injustices, there are people alive right now who could maybe use his help.

PilotX said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elgin-courier-news/news/ct-ecn-mural-lynching-elgin-st-0520-20160519-story.html

Check this out Field. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Happy to say I don't have one drop of european blood in me. I am uncontaminated.

The Shadow Knows... said...

Field, the author is concern that his "segregated lineage" may mean that his ancestors were racists, so he was hoping for a little mixture in his genes, but then that presented another problem, if he was "genetically diverse," it might mean that, with his ancestry, "there [was] a chance a direct relative was a slaveholder and a rapist."

What he found appalling is the existence of racism, and he was hoping that his ancestors had, or would have had, similar feelings, but his genetics didn't resolve his dilemma, as he had hoped.

In addition, being 100 percent white suggested one of two things, either it was a result of "geography," or "it was intentional." Either way, he couldn't ascertain how his ancestors might have felt about blacks from the meager evidence, or whether he might have been a racist himself had he lived during that time: "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?"

"I found that essay to be troubling, and for the life of me I can't figure out why."

You found the "essay to be troubling," because it brought to the fore the emphasis that this society, this country, and this nation, place on color, on race, and one's genetic origins. These things are the least of who we are, as we're so much more than our physical bodies, but we are treated in ways that suggest that our lineage, our genetics, our country of origin carry more weight than our common humanity.

This notion, then, represents the crux of our common problem--one must entertain color first and one's character second, if at all, since color is often used to determine a person's character, or lack thereof, as well as a host of other attributes which may or may not be true, but are merely stereotypical representations of what is thought to be true.

The essay makes this point again and again, stating rather emphatically that whites are obsessed with color, and with race, either as a way to free themselves from the guilt of racism and a racist past, or to substantiate it as a world-wide norm.

"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."

The Ministry of Truth said...

"http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/elgin-courier-news/news/ct-ecn-mural-lynching-elgin-st-0520-20160519-story.html"

That is interesting, Pilot. When I first started reading, I figured that this is the sort of artwork that people might consider worthwhile, but can really only be tolerated in a gallery, not in a public square. I assumed there would be objections from people who do not want to be reminded of something so upsetting as a lynching on their way to work or the local grocery store. (It is worthwhile to note that, judging from their names, the people who objected were black.)

But then I read down further and the article says that the actual hanging is not depicted, only the mob that carried out the hanging or came to watch it. So now I don't really know what to think.

Limpbaugh said...

I think he is saying that his DNA test indicate his ancestors were all racists. None of them ever married outside of their race. He wishes he had a more diverse background. The Ministry of Truth described it well.

anotherbozo said...

Schneider needs to be told that 100% Europeans have much more Neanderthal DNA than anyone else has. (100% Africans don't have any) So in the Natural History Museum he can identify with the low-forehead, primitive-looking statue as much as Homo Sapiens. Maybe that will assuage his need for diversity.

Or maybe he's like the guest at a party who will talk about absolutely any topic as long as it calls attention to himself.

Nan said...

My impression is he was hoping to be able to ease his guilt over his own white male privilege by being able to tell himself he really wasn't that white after all. Except it turned out he is.

HouseAnglo said...

I think everyone is reading too much into this. My main take-away is that (a)the DNA biz is in it's infancy and (b) the author is doing his darndest to be rather clever and bon motty, but needs a day job.

My own guess is that in a couple of decades, this tech will result in knowledge that a lot of people will find very uncomfortable. Evidently it's OK to have a tendency towards a disease but absolutely unacceptable to be a member of a group with greater or lesser intelligence (or good manners). Personally, I enjoy the drama of the whole thing.

field negro said...

Those were great comments.

I think The Shadow....@4:30 kind of nailed what was bothering me about it.

field negro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PilotX said...

"BTW, Pilot X...didn't I tell you that the "Tran-gender Crap" would apply to the military? Affect the showers and such?

Lord help your daughters."

I know several people currently serving in the military including women and they don't think it's a big deal at all. There are so many other things to be concerned about. Pretty sure the world won't end and the sun will rise if people of different genders use the other gender's rest room. Of course I could be wrong.

PilotX said...

"But then I read down further and the article says that the actual hanging is not depicted, only the mob that carried out the hanging or came to watch it. So now I don't really know what to think."

yeah, it's an interesting case. It was being discussed on WVON radio here in Chicago and everyone is just as confused as we are. There is an attempt to contact the artist to figure out what his point was.

The Ministry of Truth said...

"yeah, it's an interesting case. It was being discussed on WVON radio here in Chicago and everyone is just as confused as we are. There is an attempt to contact the artist to figure out what his point was."

It's fairly clear from what the artist said in the article that his intent was to address racism, but it was an odd choice to show the crowd at a lynching but not the lynching itself. Without showing the two guys who got lynched, it's just a bunch of white people standing around -- how would anyone understand what the artist was driving at? Unsurprisingly, it took an entire decade for someone to match up the painting with the original picture.

And now that it has been matched up, people are mad. However, if the artist had shown the hangings, I suspect people would be even madder. Like I said, this might just be a subject that's too confrontational and disturbing for art in a public place.

Shaun King said...

As our culture has been waging a war on whiteness for decades now, white people are desperate to flee an identity that carries only negative connotations (e.g Rachael Dolezal).

There is today a huge incentive to claim a diverse heritage (e.g. Elizabeth Warren). Having a non-white ancestor not only absolves you of the sin of being white, but can bring all sorts of advantages in school admissions, social programs, and career tracks.

Whereas mixed people once tried to pass as white, they now deny the white side of their family (e.g Barack Obama).

Whites pay. Everyone else eats.

This writer was looking for a Get out of White card, but all he did was lose $200.

The Runner said...

Don't ever let your daughter be sullied by European blood.

makaii7 said...

If you haven't already considered it, please take a look at the story regarding the young lady working for Home Depot in New York who used her free speech rights to wear a cap that says America Was Never Great" AND think about making her Field Negro for awhile.

Still reading after all these years although I don't comment very often.

Makaii

Lt. Commander Johnson said...

Blogger PilotX said...
"BTW, Pilot X...didn't I tell you that the "Tran-gender Crap" would apply to the military? Affect the showers and such?

Lord help your daughters."

I know several people currently serving in the military including women and they don't think it's a big deal at all. There are so many other things to be concerned about. Pretty sure the world won't end and the sun will rise if people of different genders use the other gender's rest room. Of course I could be wrong.

1:06 PM"

I think you're missing the point, Pilot X.

Can't you see...according to these new "guidelines", I can declare myself a woman one month, and a male the next.

This means communal showers and restroom.

I guess your daughters wouldn't care for removal of separate restrooms, and elimination of privacy stalls. Ask them, if you feel comfortable with it.

Have you ever seem a military barracks? Lines of commodes, side to side?

You have to remember..it won't be "choice" anymore...there will not be choice. You either do it, or you crap/shower outside. Think about the sexual harassment. It's bad enough, already.

I appreciate your admitting you "could be wrong".

I surmise you are terribly wrong.

Best Regards,

Anonymous said...

You're right Johnson, we're all doomed.

PX

Anonymous said...

Yep MoT, totally different story as I suspected. The print version wasn't updated of course to include the interview with the author.

PX

Hattie said...

kind of a yawner...

I'm Gonna puke said...

Good Lord.

Speaking of "Yawners", have you looked in a mirror lately, Hattie?

It's horribly grotesque.

Lt. Commander Johnson said...

"Anonymous said...
You're right Johnson, we're all doomed.

PX

7:35 PM"

Ha. Your sarcasm is registered, and, actually appreciated, X.

I really wanted you to answer the question about asking your daughters how they feel about communal showers and restrooms.

Best to ask now..later could be too late.