CHF – Tracing Our Ancestors

I have always been interested in genealogy, an interest my mom said I only shared with my grandmother. My grandma and I would have lots of conversations about my ancestors, the generations before her, and we would often track family trees. Dr. Rick Kittles’ presentation really resonated in me as he talked about identity. It is very probable for an ethnic African, ethnic Asian, or ethnic Native American to have the genes of an ethnic European due to the occurrence of European colonialism from the 16th all the way to the 20th centuries. In biological terms, colonization is essentially gene flow; the genes of ethnic Europeans have been integrated into the native populations’ genomes because of this phenomenon . I myself recall my grandma’s stories about her Spanish grandfather, and how she carried his name and skin color. Though my genes do say I am European, they also say I am Austronesian. However it is here that Kittles explained that biology will never fully explain identity. Identity is described by how you were raised and who you socialize with. He gave multiple examples of people with a combination of different geographical genes, from Halle Berry to himself, but who only identify with one ethnicity. Both of them are African Americans with the genes of white European men, but both only identify with the African American societal group. I identify with my Filipino ethnicity moreso, if ever, than with my Spanish ethnicity. However I find it very interesting how I still have a sliver of European in me. In fact, my genome probably describes the genome of Filipino people pretty accurately. The genome reflects not only our past, but it is the aggregate of our culture. I do agree however that looking at culture and ethnicity through the biological lens is essential for understanding oneself. Hopefully in the future, I would be able to track my exact genome through ancestry.com or 23 and me to get a full understanding. Lastly, I would like to end on how Dr. Kittles explained the possible futures for the biological melting pot that is America. Interracial marriages are becoming more and more of the norm, so now more than ever is it important to grasp an understanding of both your ethnic heritage and your biological past.

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