Rick Kittle – Tracing our Ancestors

Rick Kittles provided an informative lecture for a broad audience. I had never really thought of genetics as a medium to look into the past. However, Kittles broadened my views on the topic. By looking at polymorphisms, caused by the subtle changes in the nucleotide sequence in DNA, and comparing them, Kittle says we are able to look back on history because they serve as markers. What’s even more amazing so, is that these markers can be used to reconstruct the movement of humans throughout history. While we have learned about how polymorphisms  contribute to the diversity of a population, we have never really thought of them as tools to trace the history of organisms. 

Why might people want to trace their ancestors? Kittle gave us a very good example with African Americans that had arrived to the Americas through the slave trade. The slave trade caused thousands of people to lose their sense of culture and language, and so it is no surprise that genealogy is now the 2nd most popular internet service. Also the reason for wanting to know more about how ancestors is because of how increasingly socialized the definition of race has become. Society judges race based off of skin color and self-identified race has become more and more popular. So to see a dark skinned person, one might assume that they were African American, but would end up surprised to realized that they were in fact Indian. It’s hard for many people to understand that skin color is not a direct link to race. Skin color merely shows the dominant gene that has been presented within that chromosome. 

Race is also shaped by the history of the environment. Yet again, take the slaves that had arrived via slave ships for example. Because the United States were partitioned during that time, you had multiple different dominant cultures along the coast that taught different customs to the slaves. Some areas might make it okay for a slave to marry a person of a different skin color, while some may not. These shape the genetic variations of that race, causing people to grow more and more diverse. 

I had never really thought that race could be affected socially. Seeing as how all of the family that I know is Chinese, I assumed that I was 100% Chinese. But what if I wasn’t? With the Japanese attempt at invading China, one can’t be so sure. This is why I think the genealogy service is so popular. People WANT to know more about themselves, things that their skin color doesn’t tell. 

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