NYT: "The Folly of Genetic Ancestry Tests"
Print Friendly and PDF

From the NYT Opinion section:

Elizabeth Warren and the Folly of Genetic Ancestry Tests

DNA can’t tell us about identity.

I realize I am a horrible extremist, unlike the folks who pronounce so confidently in the New York Times, but it would seem to me that DNA can tell us some things about human identity, which is an interestingly complex subject.

For example, Honolulu preppy Barack Obama may well have had less “lived experience” while growing up of being an African American than did Rachel Dolezal, who grew up with black (adopted) siblings. But Obama had the DNA (and a 150,000-word memoir explaining that his “Story of Race and Inheritance” was all about his “Dreams From My Father”), while Dolezal didn’t have the DNA.

By Alondra Nelson

Dr. Nelson is the author of “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome.”

Oct. 17, 2018

… The truth is that sets of DNA markers cannot tell us who we really are because genetic data is technical and identity is social.

Or maybe identity is a little more complicated than that?

… To be Native American is to be a member of a tribal community and recognized by that community as such. DNA cannot vouchsafe tribal identity or any other community affiliation.

I’ve often made a similar argument in regard to Senator Warren’s claim, but let me flip that around and point out there are probably individuals who are clearly Native American by biological ancestry without qualifying for membership in any one tribe. Say you have one great-grandparent from each of four Indian nations that require a 1/4th “blood quantum.” Then you wouldn’t qualify for membership in any single tribe, but you’d be half American Indian. It would be quite reasonable for you to therefore self-identify as possessing a reasonable claim to genetic membership in the Indian race as a whole even though you wouldn’t qualify legally for membership in any single Indian nation.

There are probably other cases, such as adoptions and cuckoo’s eggs, where somebody couldn’t legally qualify for tribal membership but would have a decent claim for genetic relationship. For example, on Mike Judge’ sitcom King of the Hill, Bobby Hill’s friend Joseph Gribble is legally the white son of Dale and Nancy Gribble, but is obviously the natural son of their Indian friend John Redcorn, although conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble doesn’t notice.

[Comment at Unz.com]
Print Friendly and PDF