19 votes

Cultural appropriation justified through DNA tests?

Good morning!

I was listening to the CBC radio on my way to work and there was a very interesting discussion about how people choose to interpret the results of DNA tests. I did a quick search and unfortunately couldn't find the radio broadcast on CBCs site.

Points mentioned (from my memory):

  • People don't look at the results of a DNA test and go "this is who I am", instead they use it to cherry-pick who they want to be
  • Statically, "white" people tend to identify with a more "exotic" finding in their test
  • Example used included a person that chose to identify with who they thought they would pass as; results showed Native and Celtic blood, and person went with Native because he didn't believe they physically passed for Celtic

The cultural appropriation part:

  • When non-minorities, who have generally not been raised or have much interaction with the minority they are now choosing to identify with, they can skew, more specifically flatten stats. For example, for a person who's always identified as caucasian to start checking off boxes for a minority, they are potentially 1) disregarding the consequences there are to race (discrimination), and 2) pumping up the stats for minority representation.

As a visible minority myself, I just find it in poor taste. I would love to think people who find a little bit of Asian blood will go and try to discovery more of what it is to be Asian, but I would definitely roll my eyes, if you just come up to me and say "I'm 1/64th like you".

So thoughts? Has anyone done a DNA test and how did it go?

49 comments

  1. [2]
    a_wild_swarm_appears
    Link
    I listened to a podcast about those tests, can't remember if it was radiolab or freakanomics, but anyway, they pointed out that these tests don't necessarily say anything about your heritage, but...

    I listened to a podcast about those tests, can't remember if it was radiolab or freakanomics, but anyway, they pointed out that these tests don't necessarily say anything about your heritage, but just how your dna relates to others who have been tested. So if I recall correct, it's not "You are 5% French" for example, it's "5% of French people tested have these same markers" or whatever.

    14 votes
    1. nacho
      Link Parent
      It all depends on what kinds of interpretations they're giving. There's a lot of different uses for genetic testing and therefore different interpretations. This piece comes to mind on a related...

      So if I recall correct, it's not "You are 5% French" for example, it's "5% of French people tested have these same markers" or whatever.

      It all depends on what kinds of interpretations they're giving. There's a lot of different uses for genetic testing and therefore different interpretations.

      This piece comes to mind on a related issue, but it isn't exactly the whole " I'm 3% Scandinavian" or whatever: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/feb/25/viking-ancestors-astrology

      3 votes
  2. [6]
    JamesTeaKirk
    Link
    This is why *ethnicity" is a much more useful indicator than "race" imo. Ethnicity describes the community/environment you occupy and identify with. Race is an attribute that barely truly exists...

    This is why *ethnicity" is a much more useful indicator than "race" imo. Ethnicity describes the community/environment you occupy and identify with. Race is an attribute that barely truly exists in today's world, and continues to become more muddled every day.

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      demifiend
      Link Parent
      Is "New Yorker" an ethnicity?

      Is "New Yorker" an ethnicity?

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        JamesTeaKirk
        Link Parent
        Well New York is comprised of many different pockets of ethnic groups; So I suppose not. But I guess you could argue it is on some contextual level

        Well New York is comprised of many different pockets of ethnic groups; So I suppose not. But I guess you could argue it is on some contextual level

        3 votes
        1. CR0W
          Link Parent
          I lived in Syracuse for a while, it was surprising to see these little pockets of different nationalities. I was used to people being more blended together after living in other parts of the...

          I lived in Syracuse for a while, it was surprising to see these little pockets of different nationalities. I was used to people being more blended together after living in other parts of the country so seeing an entirely Irish neighborhood, or a Ukrainian neighborhood, or Polish, it was an interesting experience. It was definitely a culinary adventure. Breakfast, stop by the Polish bakers for a kolache. Lunch, head over to the Irish pub for fish and chips. Dinner, hit the Jewish deli for a sandwich.

          3 votes
    2. [2]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      The human genome is a multi-dimensional spectrum. Race tries to take spheres of this and turn that into classifications. No matter how you do that there's going to be a lot of gray area where the...

      The human genome is a multi-dimensional spectrum. Race tries to take spheres of this and turn that into classifications. No matter how you do that there's going to be a lot of gray area where the classifications don't make any sense. In addition, this supervised clustering (to use a machine learning term) works largely off of physical appearance. You're trying to visually divide people up - but pretend it's all based on genetics.

      For small enough groups (which could be an ethnicity, although the definition of one is loose) it's not as hard to draw this border. But I'm curious why such a classification is even useful. As far as personal identity goes I can understand it. However if you strongly identify with a group because of your upbringing then your appearance or genetics should not matter when it comes to being included in that group. For thinking about others I'm curious why we need to know their classification.

      2 votes
      1. JamesTeaKirk
        Link Parent
        I'm not claiming it's important, I'm not really sure why we need to know these classifications (outside of medical history). I guess what I mean is that ethnicity is a more "robust"(?)...

        I'm not claiming it's important, I'm not really sure why we need to know these classifications (outside of medical history). I guess what I mean is that ethnicity is a more "robust"(?) classification; It reflects the environmental factors that likely affected the person and their development, whereas if my "race" is Russian, because I'm 70% Russian, but I'm born in America, what use is there in defining that race?

        1 vote
  3. [8]
    CR0W
    Link
    I've not done a DNA test myself, and have no plans to ever do one because of privacy concerns. However, I have had relatives do the testing as a verification of the family genealogy. I have only...

    I've not done a DNA test myself, and have no plans to ever do one because of privacy concerns. However, I have had relatives do the testing as a verification of the family genealogy. I have only personally traced it back to the Civil War era, beyond that I have no clue. We had known we were Ulster Scot and Irish, which was confirmed in the testing, apparently we also have some German and a fair bit of Norwegian to round things out.

    A coworker had been told they were a large percentage Native American (Souix), the number he gave me I cannot remember, but not some trivial amount. The story had been handed down for generations, and they even had photos of relatives standing out on the plains from 1800s. This was a genuine, wholehearted, belief that was based upon family record keeping. Photographs, documents, they had a good paper trail.

    He was gifted a DNA test for his birthday and sent it off, comes back and there is not even a trace of Native American in the results. Got another kit, from another company, and the results were the same. I moved and am not sure what happened, but I can't imagine having a similar family history, something tangible that I can hold in my hands, and deciding to abandon it because a test says it's not true. Tough pill to swallow.

    Personally, I am quite tired of labels. I believe they only cause divisiveness, and serve as a stumbling block to true progress between races. Why can we not just be Kevin who is my neighbor, why must it be Kevin, the black guy across the street? When you get down into it, white people absolutely get the short shrift. Caucasian? That's a bit racist if we want to be honest. It's left over from the old anthropology studies where mankind was divided up into three categories, Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid. When is the last time you saw Mongolian or Negrito on a demographics form?

    My wife is mixed race, her mother being Vietnamese and her father being black whose family is a mix of French Creole from southern Louisiana, and she never knows what to check in those boxes. Our kids are going to have an even harder time filling out forms! At the end of the day, what does it really matter? I have lived in other countries, traveled to many countries, and have met people of all sorts. Their race did not make them automatically smart, or automatically a bigot, or automatically lazy. Maybe it is laziness that is the driving force behind using labels, rather than getting to know people for who they are it is easier to just slap that label on them and treat them according to whatever stereotype applies.

    6 votes
    1. [7]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      This is going to sound convoluted, but though I agree with the getting rid of labels thing, I find a lot of conflict with it myself. I don't check off any boxes when I fill out forms, but at the...

      Personally, I am quite tired of labels.

      This is going to sound convoluted, but though I agree with the getting rid of labels thing, I find a lot of conflict with it myself. I don't check off any boxes when I fill out forms, but at the same time, I find it hard to only think of myself as Canadian. And the truth is, when I get a "I don't think of you as Chinese" or "I think of you as just Canadian", it usually comes of as extremely dismissive. And to be honest, when I read:

      Why can we not just be Kevin who is my neighbor, why must it be Kevin, the black guy across the street?

      I have mixed feelings. I don't want to be judged for my ethnicity, but I don't want it ignored either. Perhaps more accurately, I don't want to be discriminated for my ethnicity, but also don't want to be denied my identity.

      5 votes
      1. [6]
        CR0W
        Link Parent
        I want to preface my reply by saying that this is meant as respectfully as possible, with no malice or ill intent, so hopefully none is taken! That being said, do you believe that your...

        I want to preface my reply by saying that this is meant as respectfully as possible, with no malice or ill intent, so hopefully none is taken! That being said, do you believe that your race/ethnicity is your identity?

        Personally, I give no one particular element of who I am precedence when it comes to my identity. I view it more as a bunch of separate things which comprise the whole. It would be easy to fall into the trap of "disgruntled veteran" or "chauvinistic white male" and basing my identity on that. However, that would be allowing someone else establish traits/requirements and just conforming my own views/habits to fit into that neat little category.

        Instead I choose to take my life's experiences and use those to establish my own guidelines and identity. Truthfully, when it comes to my identity, I like to think about my eulogy and what people will say after I am dead. I would hope that people just remember me as CR0W, a decent guy who lived peacefully and was blessed with a beautiful family. I would much rather identify with that than CR0W, a white American male married to a black/Vietnamese female with two multiethnic daughters.

        6 votes
        1. [5]
          Catt
          Link Parent
          Race definitely not (I'm not a strong believer in "race"). Ethnicity is weird, and I'm not sure how well I can explain it, but basically, I'm not sure how to separate my experiences as a person...

          Race definitely not (I'm not a strong believer in "race"). Ethnicity is weird, and I'm not sure how well I can explain it, but basically, I'm not sure how to separate my experiences as a person with my experiences as a Chinese-Canadian. Some things are easy, like I love cats (person), or I love traveling in Asia (Chinese part...maybe?). A few years ago, made a trip to northern China and saw part of the Silk Road. I loved seeing parts of my history in person, but would I have love it the same way if I knew of the history, but learned of it somewhere else (and that it's somehow disassociated with my Chinese history)? I don't know.

          Instead I choose to take my life's experiences and use those to establish my own guidelines and identity. Truthfully, when it comes to my identity, I like to think about my eulogy and what people will say after I am dead. I would hope that people just remember me as CR0W, a decent guy who lived peacefully and was blessed with a beautiful family. I would much rather identify with that than CR0W, a white American male married to a black/Vietnamese female with two multiethnic daughters.

          I think this is beautiful.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            BuckeyeSundae
            Link Parent
            There is some family culture that often seeps into our experiences as well that people tend to loop into ethnicity as a time saver. But family culture is not necessarily the same as ethnic...

            There is some family culture that often seeps into our experiences as well that people tend to loop into ethnicity as a time saver. But family culture is not necessarily the same as ethnic culture. For example, my family's funerals are generally fun times all around. We generally mourn by enjoying each other's company and sharing stories that usually poke fun at the recently deceased, at least when we see the death coming. Obviously unexpected tragedy is another matter because we're in as much shock as anyone, but the ones we can plan for are parties.

            As I say all that, a callous observer of my other comments in this thread may read that and think "well of course, you've got that Irish culture laying around there." But what I didn't say is that it's the English side that is most aggressive about treating funerals as a family reunion with one person who can't defend themselves from defamation (and therefore all defamation possible must follow). The Irish side has their wakes, sure, but the second to most recent funeral I've been to there was the victim of an awful homicide. We more or less just watched the widowed husband drink himself silly and then I drove him home, something that repeated every gathering for the next few years until his mother died. That wake was a party.

            Families are immensely and necessarily personal. While some of the larger ethnic culture can find echoes in your family culture (such as my own gallows humor when it comes to issues of death, perhaps), it sucks major ass to have people making assumptions about you just because they see how you look and put you into an ethnic category. I think it makes perfect sense to see yourself as a complicated person who came into being on the backs of your ancestors and their experiences, traditions, and beliefs. You've embraced some of those experiences, traditions and beliefs and not others because you're human. And I think we should all expect to be treated as such.

            3 votes
            1. Catt
              Link Parent
              I definitely agree and see plenty of examples too. (Love yours, by the way :). We do something roughly translated to a "smiling funeral" too.) And where we define that boundary between family and...

              There is some family culture that often seeps into our experiences as well that people tend to loop into ethnicity as a time saver. But family culture is not necessarily the same as ethnic culture.

              I definitely agree and see plenty of examples too. (Love yours, by the way :). We do something roughly translated to a "smiling funeral" too.) And where we define that boundary between family and "our people" is strange too. I've noticed that outside of China, "it's a Chinese custom", but when in China, "it's a family custom".

              I think it makes perfect sense to see yourself as a complicated person who came into being on the backs of your ancestors and their experiences, traditions, and beliefs. You've embraced some of those experiences, traditions and beliefs and not others because you're human. And I think we should all expect to be treated as such.

              I honestly believe this is what everyone wants. Thanks for sharing.

              1 vote
          2. [2]
            CR0W
            Link Parent
            A bit off-topic, but have you seen An Idiot Abroad? His visit to China cracked me up. Also, Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has a documentary called Manufactured Landscapes where he visited...

            A bit off-topic, but have you seen An Idiot Abroad? His visit to China cracked me up. Also, Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has a documentary called Manufactured Landscapes where he visited China. The sheer scale of things there is tough to wrap your head around! I wouldn't mind visiting the Three Gorges Dam, and of course the Great Wall while I am there, but I am not sure you could really see everything in just one trip.

            1 vote
            1. Catt
              Link Parent
              I have seen a bit of An Idiot Abroad, but didn't see his visit to China. Will have to check that and Manufactured Landscapes out. Thanks for the suggestions. Three Gorges Dam is on my list too....

              I have seen a bit of An Idiot Abroad, but didn't see his visit to China. Will have to check that and Manufactured Landscapes out. Thanks for the suggestions.

              Three Gorges Dam is on my list too. Sorry that I didn't get a chance to see that region before they flooded it though.

              I did check out one gate of the Great Wall. It can definitely be quite the hike! It was 40C+ when I went, so I didn't make it very far at all lol. People backpack the wall though, which is just a crazy commitment to me.

              China's so big, I've been a few times and haven't even scratched the surface of what I want to see. Three Gorges and the Great Wall (depending on which gate you're going to) can already be pretty physically far.

              Edit: outpost is probably a more correct word than gate...

  4. [7]
    CALICO
    Link
    I haven't taken a DNA Test, but that's mostly to do with privacy concerns and genetic ownership and such. Though, I already know that my genealogical background is largely English, Irish, French,...

    I haven't taken a DNA Test, but that's mostly to do with privacy concerns and genetic ownership and such. Though, I already know that my genealogical background is largely English, Irish, French, and Dutch, and can trace a few lines as far back as the Marquis Lafayette and Peregrine White. Glamorous, exclusive, celebrity heritage aside, I'm entirely a white American mutt with no solid cultural identity. America isn't old enough to really have many cultures of their own yet — aside from those of our natives — and my family has been largely unconcerned with their backgrounds going back at least two generations. My great-grandfather always seemed ashamed or embarrassed about his Peruvian French side, but that's all I've got. For all intents and purposes, I don't have a culture. I suspect I'm not alone.
    Cultural Identities and ethnic groups are really interesting things. It's a kinship and common ground shared by people. It can be a unifying force. At least, that's how it looks to me. All of my former romantic partners have strong ethnic and cultural backgrounds that are important to them. From Mi'kmaq and Algonquian, to Thai, Chinese, Mexican, and others. Their backgrounds are a part of who they are as people, and how they interact with the world. It was always a little strange talking about our families, it felt very one-sided. They all have something, I have nothing. I can certainly understand why others would feel a wanting for something "exotic" in their lineage. For something more tangible or interesting than 'generic white colonial'.
    The cultural appropriation, and all that comes with it, is certainly a problem, there's no doubt about that. But I can't say I don't understand why someone would be excited to find something in their heritage they could use to help identify themselves. Especially if they don't already have a good idea of their relatively-recent family history.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      demifiend
      Link Parent
      No, you're not. I'm a nerd and a metalhead. My "culture", such as it is, is manufactured and sold to me by corporations for profit. My last name might have meant something back in Germany or...

      For all intents and purposes, I don't have a culture. I suspect I'm not alone.

      No, you're not. I'm a nerd and a metalhead. My "culture", such as it is, is manufactured and sold to me by corporations for profit.

      My last name might have meant something back in Germany or Poland 200 years ago, but in the USA it doesn't mean a godforsaken thing.

      Whatever traditions my ancestors brought with them are lost. All I have are a few recipes that my mother shared with my wife rather than with me, reasoning that since she couldn't pass them down to her daughter, a daughter-in-law would do.

      It seems that being white means being Christian and looking down on anybody who isn't white. If that's the case, then I want no part of it. I'd rather be a New Yorker than a white man.

      5 votes
    2. [2]
      meristele
      Link Parent
      I respectfully disagree. Cultural variations in mixed areas appear within a generation. Look at the pidgeon slang (which is actually a creole) of Hawai'i. It is entirely different from the creole...

      I'm entirely a white American mutt with no solid cultural identity. America isn't old enough to really have many cultures of their own yet...

      I respectfully disagree. Cultural variations in mixed areas appear within a generation. Look at the pidgeon slang (which is actually a creole) of Hawai'i. It is entirely different from the creole in New Orleans due to the heritages that went into the area.

      Also masking the issue is that American culture has been partially adopted by many other countries, to the point that they sometimes don't even wear their own cultural garb most of the time. I humbly point out that jeans are American traditional garb starting from the 1800s. While stretchy knit undergarments have been around for centuries, the T-shirt variation began in America in the early 20th century and went crazy. When you walk around in say, Tokyo, do you see more kimonos and yukata on teens... or jeans and t-shirts?

      Hoe downs. Cowboys. Pizza is American. Tomatoes and potatoes both came from the Americas, and the food development of them is different here than other places they were imported to. 4th of July and a November Thanksgiving are culturally American, along with the food traditions that go with them. I tried to give someone from the Commonwealth pumpkin pie once. They were hugely befuddled and kept muttering "squash pie..." under their breath.

      If Americans don't have a cultural identity, why is there the phrase "ugly Americans" for when we visit other countries? From the point of view of an American whose home state is not always recognized as being American, it's because many Americans have not been exposed to many non-American cultures...and sometimes behave like people who are not the same as them are "strange." It's kinda rude to go to someone else's homeland and inform them that their bathrooms are "interesting."

      Be interested in and take pride in your cultural heritage! If someone tells you that Americans have no culture, ask them why they're wearing jeans and a t-shirt. ;)

      5 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Your comment reminds me of the adage that a fish doesn't notice the water it swims in. When you're embedded inside a culture, it doesn't seem like a "culture" to you. Foreign countries have...

        Your comment reminds me of the adage that a fish doesn't notice the water it swims in. When you're embedded inside a culture, it doesn't seem like a "culture" to you. Foreign countries have "culture"; what we have at home is just normal life.

        EDIT: Punctuation.

        4 votes
    3. BuckeyeSundae
      Link Parent
      I get a little of where you're coming from. I'm about as white as can be. Almost all of one side of my family when you go back far enough was puritan-English, settled in Massachusetts from the...

      I get a little of where you're coming from. I'm about as white as can be. Almost all of one side of my family when you go back far enough was puritan-English, settled in Massachusetts from the 1610s and 20s until 1850 when for some inexplicable reason the whole lot of them decided to move to Michigan--with one lone probably catholic outsider who settled in Maryland in the 1650s, the radical. The other side some hodge podge of Irish-Norwegian-other immigrant mix that came over to the Americas in the 1870s or so generally.

      But one thing I would never say about myself is that I don't have a culture. I am firmly from the midwest. I was firmly raised working-to-middle class. I am firmly suburban with my upbringing (typical of a midwesterner). I end up slightly culturally catholic in a lot of ways after having been schooled in my earliest years within a catholic school. My local city has its own very distinct feel that I am firmly a part of, where we are aggressively welcoming to migrants and love our different culinary food styles probably a little too much. We are almost universally sarcastic about the city's administration. We are strangely active park goers and have way more public space than a city this size has any right to.

      There are a couple strange characteristics that people notice in people from around here that I hear about on a regular basis. There is, for example, the "midwestern goodbye," which has the opposite meaning of the Irish goodbye where people disappear without saying a word. A midwestern goodbye is when people linger after a social event, often either on the threshold of the place or in the parking lot, and just keep talking as though the social event never ended. People around here are terrible about actually leaving a goddamn social gathering (and if you're picking up some frustration from me, you've got good ears).

      There is also a behavior that I like to call lately the "midwestern middle." Often someone will give a stranger around here an idea and be met with a phrase something along the lines of, "Oh that's interesting." Interesting, in this case, means quite directly that the listener hates the idea but doesn't really want to impolitely express what they hate about it. It's a similar but more polite form of the "British understatement," where someone will complement the smallest thing they like about something to criticize the greater whole. For example, when invited into a friend's house for tea for the first time, and when invited to remark about the living room and the fireplace, a British understatement would be "I quite like the tea." The Midwestern Middle are people who claim to be undecided about a thing not because they're undecided but because to claim to be decided would be rude.

      3 votes
    4. Catt
      Link Parent
      Me too. Never felt comfortable with the idea, and the state of our privacy and ownership laws. It makes me wonder if it's because "generic white colonial" is the default here, and it makes it more...

      I haven't taken a DNA Test, but that's mostly to do with privacy concerns and genetic ownership and such.

      Me too. Never felt comfortable with the idea, and the state of our privacy and ownership laws.

      The cultural appropriation, and all that comes with it, is certainly a problem, there's no doubt about that. But I can't say I don't understand why someone would be excited to find something in their heritage they could use to help identify themselves.

      It makes me wonder if it's because "generic white colonial" is the default here, and it makes it more important for minorities to identify with their groups even as part of diasporas. I was born and raised in Canada, and wonder if Chinese in China think about their Chinese identities as those of us here do.

      2 votes
  5. [5]
    Silbern
    Link
    Edit: damnit, the original post was deleted, and my comment was too. RIP. Even with the confirmation change, the void is not stopped from eating my comments -~- Is this possible though? "Asian" is...

    Edit: damnit, the original post was deleted, and my comment was too. RIP. Even with the confirmation change, the void is not stopped from eating my comments -~-

    I would love to think people who find a little bit of Asian blood will go and try to discovery more of what it is to be Asian,

    Is this possible though? "Asian" is a race, not a single culture or ethnicity, and since it's based almost entirely or exclusively on physical features, you can't really discover or become it can you...? For example, you can work to integrate more into a single European country, like you could become more Polish or more German, but you can't really become or discover being "white", since it's just a set of physical features...?

    Either way, I'm not a big fan of these tests, for privacy reasons primarily, but they also don't really tell you much. Knowing that you possess a set of DNA fragments doesn't tell you anything about what your family was actually like, and especially if you have a widely spread family (like mine across much of Europe), they're very likely to be inaccurate to begin with.

    Instead, why not research your family history? For example, by building a family tree. I did a little research on this a long time ago, and it's how I learned that my great-grandmother worked as a professional cook for both Germany's finance minister before WWII, and for the doctor who invented the lung transplant (or maybe it wasn't the lung, but it was definitely some kind of transplant I believe). My mother knew her very well and told me some of her stories, and we recovered her old journal that she used to right in. Unfortunately, it's written in Sütterlin... Or how I know for a fact that I had family who fought on both sides of WWII; one of my great great grandfathers was a WWII bomber pilot, and many of my great uncles were drafted into Germany's army. It gives you a different outlook on events when you can tie yourself to them...

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      Oh I'm sorry. I noticed a spelling mistake in the title and just couldn't live with it. I thought I was fast enough that I wouldn't affect anyone...

      Edit: damnit, the original post was deleted, and my comment was too. RIP. Even with the confirmation change, the void is not stopped from eating my comments -~-

      Oh I'm sorry. I noticed a spelling mistake in the title and just couldn't live with it. I thought I was fast enough that I wouldn't affect anyone...

      3 votes
      1. Silbern
        Link Parent
        No worries, it's all good! :D I just like irony. Even pestering @Deimos wasn't enough!

        No worries, it's all good! :D I just like irony. Even pestering @Deimos wasn't enough!

        1 vote
    2. Catt
      Link Parent
      My two-cents, yes it is. I used "Asian" because I figured the audience here is mostly in North America, and more specifically non-Asian. We definitely break down "what Asian you are". It might...

      Is this possible though? "Asian" is a race, not a single culture or ethnicity, and since it's based almost entirely or exclusively on physical features, you can't really discover or become it can you...?

      My two-cents, yes it is. I used "Asian" because I figured the audience here is mostly in North America, and more specifically non-Asian. We definitely break down "what Asian you are". It might surprise some people that the "where are you from from" question is asked by other Asians too. For example, my folks are from two different regions in China, and I have physical features associated from both. That needs to be explained for other Chinese people (especially the older generation). I literal have people look at me and make comments about specific physical features because it doesn't fit.

      Instead, why not research your family history? For example, by building a family tree.

      I totally agree with this. It seems tracing your family tree would offer more than a DNA test.

      2 votes
    3. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Same here! One of my grandfathers was a mechanic in the Royal Air Force, while my other grandfather did unspecified things in the German Army (he wasn't German himself, he was a citizen of a...

      Or how I know for a fact that I had family who fought on both sides of WWII;

      Same here! One of my grandfathers was a mechanic in the Royal Air Force, while my other grandfather did unspecified things in the German Army (he wasn't German himself, he was a citizen of a Nazi-occupied territory, and I got the impression that his choices were either to join the German Army or to become a victim of the Nazi occupation, along with his wife and infant child).

  6. BuckeyeSundae
    Link
    At the risk of sounding like I'm beating a dead horse here, I think there is a crucial distinction that is unignoreable between passing for an ethnic community and actually being a part of that...

    At the risk of sounding like I'm beating a dead horse here, I think there is a crucial distinction that is unignoreable between passing for an ethnic community and actually being a part of that community. If you take a DNA test after having spent your entire life up until that point identifying yourself and being identified by others as white, then you have no business trying to claim to have the same ethnic or racial experience as someone who doesn't get the choice to pass on their minority identity.

    For example, there has always been a rumor in my mostly Irish, some Norwegian, immigrant side that great (great?) Grandpa "Swiss" (who was actually a Norwegian draft dodger who didn't speak English, thus the guess by immigration officials) married a "Cherokee princess" while he was down in the Oklahoma/Louisiana area (allegedly his own words late in life, but no one confirmed this with his wife as she died before anyone thought to ask). That would technically make me something like 1/32nd or 1/64th Cherokee (I don't remember exactly how many generations ago this is now), and I've been raised with that oral history in mind, along with a special "love" for Andrew Jackson's treatment of native peoples. I do not pretend that this is either reliable information or that I am suddenly a card carrying member of the Cherokee tribe with the same barriers in my life that they have. It serves to give me some more empathy for oppressed minorities, for sure. But I will not claim their identity as mine, even if the oral history were true. The tiny fraction of heritage that comes from that background is quirky, and interesting, and empathy inducing, but it has very little real impact today on how people see me and interact with me. It had very little impact on my mother's generation, or her parents' generation, or even her grandparents' generation.

    Frankly, I look like I'm Irish-American, and people treat me accordingly. That comes with all the biases and social grease that the look grants me in this society. To identify myself in any other way but "white" as a general term and the specifics if people want to get into the weeds does two things: (1) it disrespects my family history, which though it has its quirks it is pretty clear; (2) it disrespects the real, lived experience of people who don't get a choice for how other people view them.

    Edit: One thing I wonder is if the people who see much allure to these DNA tests lack the robust oral histories that my family on both sides is very keen on sharing with one another, and/or they lack the connection with their local communities that would help them feel like they have a lifeline to local culture.

    2 votes
  7. [6]
    kiwi
    Link
    I did have a DNA test, but the ancestral component was largely irrelevant to me. To me it's mostly about your accent, somewhat about the stories you know, and rarely about who your relatives were....

    I did have a DNA test, but the ancestral component was largely irrelevant to me.

    To me it's mostly about your accent, somewhat about the stories you know, and rarely about who your relatives were.

    I judge people's culture (or lack thereof) largely based on their accent. Especially Aussies. (Sorry Algernon_Asimov :)...)

    The stories you hear from your ancestors are also an important part of who you are.

    Lastly, your ancestors are also important. In New Zealand, I believe in order to be considered Maori, you have to be able to prove one ancestral lineage through to an Iwi. It has nothing to do with DNA.

    In the USA, Americans often strongly identify with an ancestral country, even thought the connection is tenuous at best.

    So as a general rule, if you have an American accent, then I will simply assume you are as American as they come.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      You might be surprised at my accent! Many Aussies think I sound English, and I once failed to get a role in an Australian play because I couldn't do a convincing "Ocker" accent (although I made up...

      I judge people's culture (or lack thereof) largely based on their accent. Especially Aussies. (Sorry Algernon_Asimov :)...)

      You might be surprised at my accent! Many Aussies think I sound English, and I once failed to get a role in an Australian play because I couldn't do a convincing "Ocker" accent (although I made up for that a few years later by playing a beer-drinkin', fag-smokin', woman-hatin' foul-mouthed bogan-in-a-business-suit!). Even these days, I still sound like a posh Australian rather than a regular Aussie.

      As for culture... "Ay go to the the-ay-ter, dahling!" And I read books 'n shit. I'm bloody cultchered, 'n I'll 'av a go at anyone who says anyfink diff'rent!

      I believe in order to be considered Maori, you have to be able to prove one ancestral lineage through to an Iwi. It has nothing to do with DNA.

      Strictly speaking, if one of your ancestors was Iwi, then you almost certainly have inherited some DNA from that Iwi ancestor.

      1 vote
      1. kiwi
        Link Parent
        Speaking of cultural misappropriation, I got so tired of you Aussies falsely claiming our delicious pav and weet-bix for your own (Kiwi kids are the real weet-bix kids), that I decided to fight...

        Speaking of cultural misappropriation, I got so tired of you Aussies falsely claiming our delicious pav and weet-bix for your own (Kiwi kids are the real weet-bix kids), that I decided to fight back.

        I can now throw a boomerang to the point where it sometimes comes back and threatens to biff me in the head.

        I can also play some god awful sounds interminably on the old didge. It's an abomination. Kind of like what you guys did to Marmite.

        You can keep Aussie rules footie, tho.

    2. [3]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      Accent - that's a really good point. Though I know it can suck. I know friends who immigrated to Canada when they were 8ish, and some have lost their accent and some don't. It can definitely be...

      Accent - that's a really good point. Though I know it can suck. I know friends who immigrated to Canada when they were 8ish, and some have lost their accent and some don't. It can definitely be pretty discriminatory for those that don't (of course this is anecdotal).

      1. [2]
        kiwi
        Link Parent
        Ahhhh, but if you go to Bosnia with an American accent, you will be the hit of the town. I'm kinda proud of the fact that my kid talks to me in a Kiwi accent. He talks Spanish with a 100% genuine...

        Ahhhh, but if you go to Bosnia with an American accent, you will be the hit of the town.

        I'm kinda proud of the fact that my kid talks to me in a Kiwi accent. He talks Spanish with a 100% genuine Mexican accent, and he talks to everyone else in an American accent, because he is American.

        I hope he keeps the other accents up, because not only is it an incredible social lubricant, but I think it still secretly pisses off his mother whenever he refers to her as Mum instead of Mom :)

        Thanks for the surprisingly thoughtful question. For some reason you had me thinking about racism for an hour or so when I should have been working. :/

        1 vote
        1. Catt
          Link Parent
          Not at all accents are equal. I have family in the UK and they speak a pretty posh English that accents their Cantonese, which I actually think is super cute. Cantonese/Mandarin accenting English,...

          Not at all accents are equal. I have family in the UK and they speak a pretty posh English that accents their Cantonese, which I actually think is super cute. Cantonese/Mandarin accenting English, not so hot.

          I am not sure why, but I think a little kid using mum is so adorable :)

  8. [2]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    I've never done a DNA test, and I'm not really sure why I would. I'm a first-generation Australian, born of two migrant families: both of my parents were brought here (separately) as children by...

    I've never done a DNA test, and I'm not really sure why I would.

    I'm a first-generation Australian, born of two migrant families: both of my parents were brought here (separately) as children by their families in the 1950s. One side comes from eastern Europe, one side comes from Britain. I like to describe myself as "made locally from imported ingredients", mirroring some local food-labelling laws.

    I have no culture apart from "Australian". Neither of my parents had any strong ties to the cultures they were born into; both just became "Australian". This was probably helped a lot by the fact that they're both white, and one is even Anglo. They just blended in.

    I therefore already know that I am heir to some foreign (non-Aussie) cultures - but I just don't care. While I might not drink beer or follow the footy, I'm still an Aussie through and through. I watch American television without feeling American, I eat Japanese food without feeling Japanese, I even wear a woollen poncho (comfy!) I bought online without feeling Bolivian. As a modern human living in this increasingly interconnected global civilisation, I am heir to all human cultures.

    And, if someone came to me and told me they came from the same country my grandparents (either set) came from, I would feel no kinship with that person on this basis. No matter where my DNA came from (and didn't all human DNA ultimately come from Africa?), I'm an Aussie.

    EDIT: Clarifying that my parents were children when they came to Australia.

    2 votes
    1. Catt
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I find it so weird when people do that to me. They're always so excite to do a "we're from the same region!", and I always (but kinda feel like a jerk) go "I'm from Canada." Edit to add: to be...

      And, if someone came to me and told me they came from the same country my grandparents (either set) came from, I would feel no kinship with that person on this basis.

      I find it so weird when people do that to me. They're always so excite to do a "we're from the same region!", and I always (but kinda feel like a jerk) go "I'm from Canada."

      Edit to add: to be fair, there is something about being part of a community. I can be a lost tourist and pretty much wander into any Chinatown and meet friendly faces (even if we don't actually speak the same dialect).

  9. [3]
    demifiend
    Link
    I haven't taken any DNA tests, because I don't trust the testers to treat the results as confidential medical records under HIPAA (US law), but I'm given to understand that I have relatively...

    I haven't taken any DNA tests, because I don't trust the testers to treat the results as confidential medical records under HIPAA (US law), but I'm given to understand that I have relatively recent African ancestry because of my family history. One of my great-great-grandfathers on my mother's side fell in love with a black servant, it was supposedly mutual, and they eloped. I'm inclined to believe my mother when she talks about this because I've seen the graves and because my mother's complexion is much darker than mine, and gets darker still when she tans.

    However, I don't identify as black because I look like somebody with nothing but European ancestry. I'm a blue-eyed, fair-skinned, brown-haired man. I "pass for white" in my racist society. If we still lived under the "one drop rule" I'd be one pale brother, but we don't. I don't identify as white either because being white means looking down on everybody who isn't white. Even if my ancestry were entirely European, I don't like the idea of looking down on people whose ancestry didn't come entirely from Europe. It only is it demeaning to them, but it debases me as well.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      CR0W
      Link Parent
      I am lumped into the white category, but I am not a person who looks down on everyone else who is not white. I believe that has more to do with how you were raised than your genetic heritage. If...

      I am lumped into the white category, but I am not a person who looks down on everyone else who is not white. I believe that has more to do with how you were raised than your genetic heritage. If you truly feel that way, that to be white means to look down upon others, then I feel sorry for you. A person of any race can be a bigot, white folks don't have a monopoly on racism!

      2 votes
      1. demifiend
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Whiteness has almost nothing to do with genetic heritage. Irish immigrants to the US in the 19th century were despised almost as virulently as black people at first, as were central, southern, and...

        I believe that has more to do with how you were raised than your genetic heritage.

        Whiteness has almost nothing to do with genetic heritage. Irish immigrants to the US in the 19th century were despised almost as virulently as black people at first, as were central, southern, and eastern European immigrants. They might have been European, but they weren't "white". Not at first.

        If you truly feel that way, that to be white means to look down upon others, then I feel sorry for you.

        Your pity and a couple of bucks will get me a cup of coffee.

        A person of any race can be a bigot

        Really? I had no idea.

        white folks don't have a monopoly on racism!

        Maybe not, but I don't want people who don't know me thinking I'm a white supremacist because I'm fair-skinned and currently have short hair (for reasons outside the scope of this discussion). It might limit my opportunities at work and make my life unnecessarily difficult.

        1 vote
  10. [3]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. [2]
      Silbern
      Link Parent
      Oh cool! I'm originally from New England / Germany, but I currently live in Hawaii (my dad's job requires him to move very frequently). It's awesome, since so many people are 1st or 2nd generation...

      Oh cool! I'm originally from New England / Germany, but I currently live in Hawaii (my dad's job requires him to move very frequently). It's awesome, since so many people are 1st or 2nd generation immigrants, you can have some really interesting conversations, and after living in the rest of the US, it's cool to hear languages that aren't Spanish or French. I was originally the skeptic, but I've really bonded with Hawaii :D

      1 vote
      1. CR0W
        Link Parent
        A friend was stationed there at K-bay and had a hard time adjusting. We learned to surf together when stationed in San Diego and he thought it would be good times in Hawaii. Instead they called...

        A friend was stationed there at K-bay and had a hard time adjusting. We learned to surf together when stationed in San Diego and he thought it would be good times in Hawaii. Instead they called him a haole and ran him off from several spots until he found those he could surf without trouble. Surfing aside, he did love it there and eventually stopped whining about how expensive things were. His wife was surprised at how many people spoke Japanese, so she was a little less homesick while they were stationed there.

  11. [2]
    aethicglass
    Link
    I think I share a lot of the sentiments already expressed here. I haven't taken a test partially for the privacy concern stated by others, but mostly because I haven't had a reason. I think that...

    I think I share a lot of the sentiments already expressed here. I haven't taken a test partially for the privacy concern stated by others, but mostly because I haven't had a reason. I think that when epigenetics are understood a bit more, I might gain some interest. Disease disposition would be another reason. Racial history would be a mildly interesting last-place for me. I might find surprising results, but they would do little to affect me.

    From what I know, I'm mostly German/Irish. Supposedly there's a bit of Native American in the mix, dating fairly far away. And on the German side, there is a bit of Jewish (both my Grandfather and Great Grandfather fought on the German side during WWII, and both were part Jewish).

    I can't imagine myself cherry picking an ethnicity if I discovered one, because more than anything else I'm a product of my environment. I'm a valley boy, through and through, albeit maybe somewhat weird. "The valley" around here in LA usually refers to the San Fernando Valley, where I'm from. It's a mix of pretty much every kind of ethnicity you can find in a big city. There are pockets where people of similar ethnicity tend to gravitate, but for the most part it's a seemingly endless sprawl. People soup. Or maybe a casserole since it's hot as an oven lately. Living here, for most people, means accepting and adopting traits of other cultures. There are plenty of exceptions (and gangs that rally around exceptionalism), but for the most part if you grow up in the soup, you become the soup. (Ugh, gross. Gag me with a spoon.)

    I guess what I'm saying is that I'm soup. Or casserole. Soup casserole. Dammit, why did I pick this analogy?

    1 vote
    1. Catt
      Link Parent
      I like the soup analogy. It's mixed and it takes time.

      I guess what I'm saying is that I'm soup. Or casserole. Soup casserole. Dammit, why did I pick this analogy?

      I like the soup analogy. It's mixed and it takes time.

      1 vote
  12. [3]
    Cuspist
    Link
    Haven't done a consumer DNA test and don't really feel the need to. The genetics of ancestry is interesting. @nacho posted an article on it, and this blog post from an evolutionary and population...

    Haven't done a consumer DNA test and don't really feel the need to.

    The genetics of ancestry is interesting. @nacho posted an article on it, and this blog post from an evolutionary and population genetics lab at UC Davis is goes into detail a bit more, and neatly sums up why these tests aren't really that informative of a persons heritage. I'd recommend reading the whole thing if you're interested, but the main point is that your genetic ancestors (those you inherited DNA from, and as such would show up on an ancestry DNA test) are far, far outnumbered by genealogical ancestors that can be traced through family trees. In fact, you only need to go back around 7 generations before you expect to see ancestors from whom you inherited 0% of your DNA. You don't have to go back much further (in terms of the scale of human history) before you are descended from everyone. For someone of European ancestry it's probably around 1000 years, before you could trace a family line to, more or less, everyone who was alive in Europe at that time that left offspring. From the blog:

    Should I be excited if a genomic ancestry company tells me that a few megabases of my genome traces back Scandinavia? Should I start to imagine that my ancestors were Vikings sailing the seven seas? Well, I already knew that my ancestors lived all over Europe, and so I already knew that my ancestors included many Vikings. These genomic connections can be fun, but if I have Scandinavian genomic ancestry and someone else in the UK does not, that does not mean that I can claim they do not have Viking ancestors, nor that I’m more Viking than they are. Such differences are more likely the result of the randomness of meiosis than an excess of berserker blood in your ancestors.

    So cherry picking a culture or ethnicity based on a small % of your DNA seems silly to me, when it doesn't paint the whole picture of heritage by a long way.

    Edit: Missed a word

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Catt
      Link Parent
      I believe it's more a point of identity than science. People who cherry-pick and choose to re-identify are looking for more than just what a random test returns. @CALICO, in their comment,...

      So cherry picking a culture or ethnicity based on a small % of your DNA seems silly to me, when it doesn't paint the whole picture of heritage by a long way.

      I believe it's more a point of identity than science. People who cherry-pick and choose to re-identify are looking for more than just what a random test returns. @CALICO, in their comment, discusses a little bit about what the appeal of an "exotic" culture might be, which makes sense to me. I wonder how widely it may apply.

      1 vote
      1. Cuspist
        Link Parent
        Oh I totally agree it's about trying to find an identity, and I think that's (at least part of) the reason people get the testing done. To find out "who they are", or, more cynically perhaps,...

        Oh I totally agree it's about trying to find an identity, and I think that's (at least part of) the reason people get the testing done. To find out "who they are", or, more cynically perhaps, anything they can grab on to that makes them 'unique'.

        I came in with the genetics angle because that's my background, but the point I was getting at is that the DNA tests are not going to legitimise these claims to some cultural heritage or other, as the science tells us that everyone with a common ancestry (be it European, East Asian, Latino or whatever), is more or less cut from the same cloth, no matter what DNA they may have inherited that appears to distinguish them from their neighbour.

        To answer you original point: No, I don't think cultural appropriation can be justified by a DNA test.

        1 vote
  13. [2]
    patience_limited
    Link
    It's funny - I'm totally bog-standard German-Russian Jewish, and there have been family genealogists who've traced branches back ten generations, so there's no doubt whatsoever about general...

    It's funny - I'm totally bog-standard German-Russian Jewish, and there have been family genealogists who've traced branches back ten generations, so there's no doubt whatsoever about general ethnic origin. Nonetheless, I have no interest in undertaking a DNA test, not just because of the privacy concerns.

    The Russian branch has more than a few red-heads going back a couple of generations - I was born ginger, and based on various whispers among the elders, it's highly likely we have some Cossack genes in the family as a product of pillage and rape. That's not any ancestry I want confirmed, and I'm sure that there are other colonized, enslaved or refugee peoples with the same distaste - more or less the exact opposite of cultural appropriation through DNA.

    1 vote
    1. Catt
      Link Parent
      That's an interesting perspective, one I don't believe is echoed much at all. Considering how much war and rape and pillaging we know is history, now that you've brought it up, I'm surprise we...

      That's not any ancestry I want confirmed...

      That's an interesting perspective, one I don't believe is echoed much at all. Considering how much war and rape and pillaging we know is history, now that you've brought it up, I'm surprise we don't get this more.