Tracing our Ancestors

Tracing Our Ancestors:Rick Kittles

In this lecture, Rick Kittles speaks about tracing human ancestry through looking at the human genome. After the Human Genome Project mapped out gene locations on our chromosomes, people began to gain interest in tracing their lineage through looking at Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms which were specific nucleotides that were known to be associated with different populations. By looking for specific SNPs, genetic analysis can be used to trace the history of an individual’s genes and thereby find their ancestry. Rick Kittles focused mainly on variations between African American because of the vast difference between the gene pools of Africans who came from West Africa and those who came from East African ports due to slavery. One major aspect of this presentation was talking about cultural implications of miscegeny among African Americans, Native Americans, and whites.

    The most interesting thing that I learned from the lecture was the idea of the 1 drop rule. The idea that as soon as one person marries into a non-Caucasian race, the children are considered to be of that non-Caucasian race. It was interesting to me that people like Halle Berry, his preferred example, consider themselves black even if they have a white parent and a black parent. It is almost as if we consider white ancestry as the pure and most basic blood, and when miscegeny occurs, we consider the blood diluted. People like Halle Berry are probably almost as much black as they are white, but. because they have black ancestry, it’s almost as if society has dictated that they can no longer be considered white but black. In this way, European ancestry is subconsciously preferred in our society, probably as a result of hundreds of years of Anglophilia throughout and after colonialism by Europe of most of the world.

    Another interesting fact that Kittles talked about was the recent obsession in tracking down ancestry. He said that ancestral searches are the second most popular search on the Internet. There are packages offered from companies like “23 & Me” use chromosomal analysis to track ancestral history. It was weird to me that people cared so much about their ancient history, but it does make sense now that the world is become so much more globalized. Social ideas concerning ethnicity are beginning to change where new, different ethnicities are valued and considered beneficial as a culturing factor. This is much different than America in the 1800s and 1900s when although America could be biologically considered a melting pot of genes and populations, cultural stigmas highly polarized the mixing of the gene pool so that different races basically stayed different populations. Whereas people in America would be horrified to find black ancestry two hundred years ago, nowadays, with the advent of affirmative action and different cultural perceptions of ethnicity, being colored has a certain attraction. Even Europeans have began to tan since a darker skin tone is not favored. Things have not completely changed though. I think there is still subconscious Anglophilia that still exists like I mentioned before. So, basically, I think this presentation provided some insight into the cultural ideas related to genetics and miscegeny. Perceptions are changing concerning being ethnic, but there is some still lingering racism that we have to be aware of.

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