In class, we were assigned to read parts of Democracry in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. In class we discussed a lot of points Tocqueville brought up in his passage. But one quote that stuck out to me the most, which was not brought up in class, was found at the bottom of page 385.
The negro of the United States has lost all remembrance of his country; the language which his forefathers spoke is never heard around him; he abjured their religion and forgot their customs when he ceased to belong to Africa, without acquiring any claim to European privileges. But he remains half way between the two communities; sold by the one, repulsed by the other; finding not a spot in the universe to call by the name of country
After reading this passage I was quickly reminded of a time when I sitting with a group of my peers and the question came up, “Where are you originally from?” We sat in a circle so everyone answered in turn. Everyone responded with the city they were born in followed by the country their ancestors were from. For example, one of my Caucasian peers said, “I was born in Arlington, Texas but my ancestors are from England, Ireland, and German.” Then my turn came around. I, being the only African-American in group, could only say Chicago. Unlike most Americans, African-Americans -whose ancestors where brought over by the slave trade – cannot state a country in particular and say this is where my ancestors are from.
However, recent breakthroughs in science have given us the capability of DNA testing. Many people believe that genetic testing help reconstruct one’s family history and determine the geographic orgins of their ancestors. Over a dozen companies have marketed “genetic ancestry tests” to help people do so; “This search for a “homeland” is particularly poignant to African-American who hope to recapture a history stole by slavery.” However, this article points out why genetic testing my not get you the results you’re looking for.
In the Bolnick article, Bolnick talks about the use of genetic data to help people learn more about their heritage or ancestry. Bolnick feels the use of race categories is sometimes flawed because many people believe race is genetically determined despite the websites saying races is not genetically determined. One problem he discusses is the type of test being used. Most test fall in two categories: Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or Y-chromosome tests. “In both test, “the test-taker’s haplotype (set of linked alleles) is determined and compared with haplotypes from other sampled individuals. These comparisons can identify related individuals who share a common maternal or paternal ancestor, as well as locations where the test taker’s haplotype is found today. However, each test examines less than 1% of the test-taker’s DNA and sheds light on only one ancestor each generation,”( Bolnick). Another problem is sometimes, “when an allele or haplotype is most common in one population, companies it often assume it to be diagnostic of that populations.” This is problematic of high genetic diversity exists with populations and gene flow.