DNA: The New Discrimination 6


 

The more I learn about genetics, the more I realize that there is no such thing as race.  There is more genetic variation within a ‘race’ than there is between European, African or Asian groups.  However, with the new DNA tests available for paternal, maternal and ethnic origins, I can’t help imagining the specter of a new discrimination.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0394800893/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=theindepthgen-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0394800893&adid=053WZX949YSMHZ03NFEQ

 

It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, The SneetchesThe Star-Belly Sneetches are better than the Plain-Belly Sneetches.  We get our DNA tested, and we learn that we are part of a distinct haplogroup.  Will we wear our haplogroup like a badge of honor?  The conversation might go like this…

 

“I’m an R1b.  There are more of us in Europe than any other group.  We have deep Celtic origins.”

“I’m an I1a.  We were in Europe before you.  My Norse Vikings are stronger than your Celts.”

“I’m G2a.  We are a small group and got to the party late.  While your ancestors were fighting we brought agriculture and metalworking to Europe.”

“Oh yeah!”

“Yeah!”

 

While our yDNA and mitochondrial DNA tests are very enlightening, they represent an incredibly small portion of our entire genetic identity.  Autosomal DNA can give a more recent view of our ethnic makeup, showing the relative amounts of our African, Asian and European heritage.  Our children will see those relative amounts get watered down or even washed away and replaced with new chunks of DNA from our spouses.  The results from our genetic tests will never define who we are.

 

DNA origins add color to what can be a black and white picture of our family history.

 

At the end of the Dr. Seuss story, every Sneetch has dozens of stars on every part of their bodies.  The story has always been an apt metaphor about discrimination.  Our DNA is like those stars, some large, some small and spread all over.  We are indistinguishable from each other except for a handful of phenotypes dictating our hair, eye and skin color.

 

Hi, I’m human.  Nice to meet you!

 

Mike Maglio is the author of Deep into DNA, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist which focuses on the use of DNA in genealogical research. Mike can be found blogging at OriginHunters.


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6 thoughts on “DNA: The New Discrimination

  • Mariann Regan

    You make a great point. There are so many times in my life when I’ve thought of “Sneetches” by the fantastic Dr. Seuss to explain human behavior. Too many people treat genealogy as if they are searching for inherited “stars” from their ancestors, anyway. And probably many people will find a way to “compete” with DNA evidence, too. Maybe the human race will some day find the wisdom to calm down about who is “better” than whom and concentrate on how to get along with each other, be interested in our similarities and differences, and help one another. I mean, please!

  • Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith

    Mike, Thanks. I’ve continued to struggle with why I should care about DNA. This little scenario caused me to take notice. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will show me the way. I appreciate your thoughts! 😉

    • Jack Coffee

      This is absolutely the first time I have every heard of anyone suggesting DNA can lead to discrimination. Is this something that is currently a problem?

      I’m just wondering because there are so many other things that people use to discriminate against others that are much more obvious that one’s DNA.

  • RoreyCathcart

    Great post Mike,

    DNA has already taken a sledgehammer to one pillar of our oral tradition. We are fortunate, we tested the individual in question around the time of her death. She thankfully never knew the results. Also, her mother was adopted so we knew we might be in for a surprise.

    As a biologist I have often worried DNA would be used against us and mean second class citizen status for many. As a genealogist, I find it is another piece of the puzzle which changes the way I think about my research approach. German? When the heck did that get into the Scot-Irish mix?

    To the question of discrimination though, I think DNA and the various haplogroups can help to soften the hard and fast lines of skin color. Haplogroups can be the stars we all wear well if we work hard to steer perception in that direction. Emphasizing our alike rather than our unlike and creating entirely new group affiliations where none previously existed.

  • Zangari Genealogy

    I think I have to make a small comment here; while I agree with you whole heartedly, one thing that you said kinda caught my attention, because of my conception and perception of things.

    You said “there is no such thing as race”; I disagree. We are all part of the HUMAN RACE. What color skin you have and where you come from, that is just ethnicity and family heritage. It’s not a “race”, and there is no such thing as a “race” on the human level. Race is like saying cats, dogs, dolphins and whales. Those are different “races” or “species”…

    I wish more people would understand that…

    Thank you for sharing this…

    ~ V ~