Tracing Our Ancestors

On Saturday November 9, 2013 I attended a seminar called Tracing Our Ancestors at UIC Convention Center as a part of the Humanities festival. This seminar focused on genetic diversity, what race people identify with, and how scientists look at genetic signatures to determine a certain ethnicity’s risk for disease. Dr.Kittles focused on people who identify themselves as African Americans and the diseases they are often susceptible to as a race, including Sickle-Cell Anemia and Prostate Cancer. But what happens if the race a person most closely identifies with does not hold true and in fact they are mixed? When all seven of the continents were beginning to separate continental variation came about, with Africans demonstrating the most variation. Fast forward to the 1800’s during the slave trade when over half a million Africans were brought to America. Many Africans were working on plantations with a white owner forcing them to work. Sometimes the African women were raped by their owners which sometimes resulted in the birth of a mixed raced child. Instead of being considered mixed the child would be identified as African American due to the Hypo-decent rule. This rule is still a big part of our society today and affects how we as African Americans identify ourselves. For example, President Obama is a mixture of African and White but he still refers to himself as African American. When we do this we lose our family history and a chance at correctly identifying whether or not we are susceptible to a specific disease.

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