Tracing Our Ancestors

The speaker for Tracing Our Ancestors was a University of Illinois at Chicago professor Rick Kittles. He started his talk saying that genealogy is the new fad gripping America today. That fad gripped me last year in honors biology. I already learned all this stuff in the genetics unit last year. The parts of his presentation that included scientific information was what we were taught in class. I did not get a chance to learn new scientific information, especially those pertaining to his own research, because he just briefly mentioned what he did, gave us a term for that, and moved on to the next topic. It left me feeling confused as to what he did and how he came to his conclusions using those methods.

One part of his presentation interested me though. He mentioned a company that looks at all your chromosomes and analyzed which race was at what specific location on the chromosome. One chromosome would have European traits at one end that overlaps with African traits at the other end. Due to polymorphism, Professor Kittles said that not any one person is 100% African, European, Asian,  or etc. like what you would fill in on any official document. Humans actually started in Africa and expanded out from there so we retain some of those characteristics.

I understand that he tried to apply the scientific information to real world phenomena by using himself as an example. He talked about his own family and history, delved into the history of the tribes of Africa, and talked about the slave trade. Eventually, it felt like I was attending an AP US History lecture. There was too much emphasis on African history and too little on the science. I felt like my prior knowledge made appreciate his presentation a little less because most of the content was bland. Professor Kittles mentioned that all the mitochondrial DNA came from our mothers, so genealogists are able to track that very easily. This baffled many people, but I was already baffled last year. All of the new information that I did not know was brushed aside as he kept going on with his talk without elaborating on what it is.

The major takeaway from Tracing Our Ancestors is that every one is truly mixed and society does not accurately portray that.

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