DNA Travels – Part IV

Part I, II, III

Here is my conclusion, and its not a concise one.

Let me start here: I have white privilege. White privilege in that the color of my skin, my ethnic background, does not cause me to deal with the prejudices and racism that plagues many people. My ancestors, the ones I know of, did not face the horrors of slavery and have not been considered and treated as lesser than because of their skin and ethnicity.

My family was maybe poor, half of them dealt with the oppression and patriarchy of being female. But we have a level of white privilege that many people never have. It’s not just in my day to day life, but when it comes to genealogy, there is a glaring problem.

While I can spit in a tube and end up with detailed results on where my family LIKELY came from, many people that are not entirely white get very different results. The reasons are just as much about continued oppression as they are about poverty and a lack of consideration. It is also a part of a story where many people of color have a lack of records and stories of their past. Because no one was keeping track, and because a lot of people were striped of their identity in the name of progress.

So, when a person of Asian or African ancestry spits in a tube, they will not get the wide range of information that I do. This is because there are holes in the record, Africa is at best lumped into regions. Asia looks much the same. So a region the same size of Europe has nothing but a large colored blob to represent its entire region and a massively diverse group of people.

The other issue is that this information is so new, and so ever-changing that it has a lot of holes in it. Holes that are slowly being filled with each new DNA test, each new set of samples, new surveys, and as the science improves.

In a recent Terry Gross Fresh Air interview with journalist Alex Wagner, I learned a lot about the problems of the tests for people looking beyond a Euro-centric story. As mentioned in the interview Alex Wagner talked to DNA scientists and many of them said these tests are like looking into a crystal ball. You just see yourself and the fantasy of smoke and mirrors. It’s maybe not that fantastical, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

So my conclusion is that my own experience, and the experience of others is that there are surprising chapters in one’s DNA story. Sometimes those chapters may need to be rewritten and edited when new evidence is found. This is the way science, history, journalism, and all other information-based research should be understood and shared. An asterisk with “to be amended” in the footnotes.

Therefore, I have landed as I think these tests are mostly good, reminders that we are all more interconnected than we imagine. We are all cousins of cousins of cousins. We have mysterious relatives with deep stories and backgrounds that are as significant from one to another. Maybe that is the true story.

It’s less of what percentage point and what country someone came from, and more of the individuals that happened to connect to create a person living in an age where we can find these pieces, easily, on an electronic box that is also connected to the world.

Happy Travels!


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