Paul R. Lehman, The unexpected results of DNA programs regarding genetics, ancestry, and race

February 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, DNA programs, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, justice, Michigan, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Michigan, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Genealogy has become a popular area of concern for many Americans lately, and many organizations have sprung up to help people needing assistance in building their family tree. Many Americans start out by using research tools available on the internet and in many libraries; much of their early searches involves a paper trail. However, since the advances of science and the introduction of DNA, many successes, as well as many disappointments have resulted in what is discovered. In an article entitled “Unexpected Roots,” (2/12/2018) by The Washington Post writer, Tara Bahrampour, the leading phrase of the article points to the conundrum: “As more people learn of their genetic makeup, African heritages emerge.”

The article focuses on a few people who took advantage of the two currently popular programs for help: “Now, for under $100, it has become increasingly easy to spit into a vial and receive a scientifically accurate assessment of one’s genetic makeup. Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com provide a list of countries or regions where the predominant genetic traits match those of one’s forebears.” While the test results might seem reassuring to some of the test takers, they can be unsettling to others because the outcome was not what was expected.

Many Americans accept the false concept of race by color, and because no standard exists for color, no factual or concrete definition of race has ever been forthcoming. So, many Americans simply do not question the false concept of a race until it directly impacts them. The article noted that “While little data exists comparing people’s perception with the reality of their ethnic makeup, a 2014 study 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3, 5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans [whites] had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.” How many of the individuals deal with their newfound information varies from one to the other depending on their self-identity.

Much of the blame for many European Americans seeing themselves as white can be traced to our founding fathers who deliberately instituted a two-race society—one black, and one white, with the white being superior to the black and all other people of color. That system had faults from the very beginning because many Americans, whose skin complexion and hair texture was similar to that of the European Americans, simply “passed” or assumed the race of white. An excellent example of “passing” by an African American was in the novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) by James Weldon Johnson. This novel is mentioned because it fits the actual life experience of Nicole Persley, in the article: “For Persley, 46, the link [to her African ancestry] turned out to be her grandfather, who had moved away from his native Georgia as started a new life passing as white in Michigan. He married a white woman, who bore Persley’s father.” The results of her DNA confirmed that she is nearly 8 percent African. Her reaction was “That was a bombshell revelation for me and my family;” she adds later that “I’m absolutely proud of my genealogy and my heritage, but I think my father would have thought I was dishonoring his father, because it was a secret and I dug it up.”

While the article was interesting and entertaining, it was also informed in the sense that many people still do not know who they are. Many people do not know the difference between race and ethnicity or know the meaning of a cultural identity and an ancestry one. Part of the reason for this ignorance is society’s conditioning towards ethnic biases and away from reality. More precisely, we know any number of things that could help us avoid the problem of identity. Namely, only one race of human beings exists today, Homo sapiens; the Homo sapiens originated in Africa so all Homo sapiens will have a degree of African ancestry in their DNA. While these testing programs like 23andMe and Ancestry.com might be able to show ethnic relations, they cannot indicate race. Why?  Bahrampour noted, “There is no DNA category for race, because a genetic marker for it does not exist.”If some programs inform customers that they belong to a certain race or races then the program is a scam. That information might be difficult for some people to accept because they want to believe something else.

The concept of race by color in America is undergoing a rapid change due to the demographics as the article reported: “In recent years, multiracial Americans have increasingly entered the national consciousness. Between 1970 to 2013, the portion of babies living with two parents of different races rose from 1 percent to 10 percent, the Pew Research Center found.” In addition, “From 2010 to 2016, those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 24 percent, according to census data, a jump that could have had as much to do with the changing way in which Americans identify themselves as an actual increase in the racially mixed population.”

While this Bahrampour article was interesting and informative, it was disappointing in the final analysis because it continued to use the language that keeps the conundrum alive and well. She informed the readers that no DNA marker exists for a category of race. Subsequently, if no category for races exists, then no way to identify that races exists as well. So, why continue to promote the myth and add to the confusion by using the terms race, racist, racial, mixed-race, and multiracial? Of course, she was seeking the responses of other people, not making judgments or pronouncements on her own relative to race and DNA,

In her article, her use of the terms European-American, and African-American indicates the changes taking place in the media moving away from the stereotype of black and white. We know that just simple steps as small as these can help to change the perceptions of many Americans who view themselves through a color.

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Paul R. Lehman, Passing was a way of fooling a flawed racial system

September 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, identity, justice, liberty, minority, Oklahoma, passing, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, U. S. Census, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the negative and lasting components of slavery and the creation of a black and white race is the value placed on being identified as white or part white. During slavery, a slave identified as being part white sold for a higher price than slaves who were considered Negro or black. Because race was based on skin complexion, fooling the system was easily accomplished by slaves who could present themselves as white. After slavery, that practice became know as “passing.”If a person moved away from his or her environment where his or her ancestry was common knowledge, then one could live his or her entire life using the white identity. However, the fear of being discovered by someone who knew the person passing was always present. Many stories, true and fictional, have been written recounting the experiences of individuals passing.
When we examine the stories of people involved in passing, we realize that the risk of being caught often resulted in death, but the rewards were opportunities for liberties and freedoms enjoyed by the majority society. The key to the entire system, however, was based on race by color, which was ineffective and faulty because it is an illusion, and lacking any empirical proof. After the Civil War the nation not only continued the system of race by color, but also introduced more illogical, unreasonable and irrational aspects to its existence. For example, Oklahoma, along with other states, created laws that stated in effect that any person of African ancestry was to be considered Negro or Colored. If we were to give some thought to that law, we would discover that the law evidently viewed Africa as a country, not a continent. Also, how would one discover the ancestry of another as African since eighty percent of the world’s population has dark skin? Today, because of DNA, we would have to include all human beings as having African ancestry. So, we know the system was flawed from the beginning.
The problem we face today is one that creates a variety of discussions because many people never challenged the system of race by color, but accepted it along with the supposed values that being white represented. Fortunately, our society is changing in ways that will soon make the concept of race by color irrelevant. The so-called “One Drop Rule” or African ancestry rule was based on illusion, not fact, so to continue to embrace it would be just as fool-hearty. None-the-less, many Americans identify themselves as being mixed-race, or bi-racial, or some other term used to discern the inclusion of white blood in their ancestry because they believe it adds to their social value. How ridiculous is that? If the creation of a white race was false at the beginning, regardless of how one mixes it, it will always be false.
A person’s race has nothing to do with his or her skin color; all people belong to the human race. The primary reason for African Americans being called blacks, Negro, and colored was to keep them from knowing and using their cultural and/or geographical identity by their slave masters. On the other hand, European Americans used their white identity as a symbol of power and privilege associated with the Anglo-Saxons. Rather than use their cultural or geographical identities, many Irish, Jews, Italians, Poles, Slavs and many others as well, changed their names and moved to locations where they “passed” as European American (Anglo-Saxons) to avoid discrimination. Ironically, once these so-called lesser Americans became accepted as whites, they adopted the same attitude of bigotry and biases as the majority society especially relative to African Americans. That way they could conceal their real ethnic identity.
Race is the primary point on which this discussion rest. If one accepts the term and how it has been employed historically, then one is doomed to confusion and frustration, because any argument involving race becomes curricular. That is, if one starts with a false premise, the result must also be false, and so it is with race. Many people of mixed cultural and geographic ancestry face difficulty in deciding how to identify themselves, and so they use terms like biracial or mixed race. These terms simply underscore the acceptance of the illusion of multiple biological races from which they choose to belong. Had they used the terms ethnic group or ethnically mixed, then their identity would reflect cultures and or geographical certainties once they disclosed them. What happens when someone of mixed ethnicity identifies him or herself by one ethnic identity, that selection should be made on the basis of the individual’s choice or preference; to make that choice because of what society or some irrational rule or law based on race by color suggest is illogical.
If someone makes the choice of ethnic identity based on what society suggests, like the one drop rule, then that person is doing a disservice to one or more aspects of his or her ancestry and of the parent representing the part left out. That choice is no longer necessary in our society. People do not have to identify themselves as black or white; they can, however, identify themselves as African American or European American, but even that is not mandatory. Just ask the Census Bureau.
Many African American people of note have been accused of avoiding their ethnic identity by passing for European American. The term passing has relevance only when one has accepted the false concept of multiple biological races. The desire to identify with a particular group is a normal tribal reaction because group identity provides a sense of comfort, protection, and unity, something most people want. But, since we are all human beings, no part of our ancestry makes us more or less than any other human being. Since we are all members of the same human family, we should begin to celebrate our likenesses rather than any superficial differences we might have.
America is changing and involved in a struggle relative to our social identity. However, the more we learn about ourselves, the better able we are to live in the present and prepare for a future that respects the value of each individual.

Paul R. Lehman, Race usage continues to create confusion

February 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Posted in blacks, Ethnicity in America, Media and Race, Race in America, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
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Hope Yen, a writer from the Associated Press has written an article that gives us an up-date on ethnic marriages in America. The article, “Interracial marriage in US hits new high: 1 in 12.” To support the findings survey results from a variety of sources are offered from the 2010 census, a Pew survey, and the American Community Survey. The problem with the surveys and their results is that they are meaningless, especially when they show “a diversifying America where interracial unions and the mixed-race children they produce are challenging typical notions of race.” We need to be more specific here.

We must stop and ask what does ‘interracial” and “mixed-race” mean in that quote? If we rely on our general conception of race we will usually come up with terms that are equally vague like black, white, Mexican, Asian, and the like. As stated in previous blogs, since race has never been clearly defined, it can never clearly be explained or examined. The first term, “interracial” would suggest that individuals from different biological races join together in union. How can that be logically acceptable when science tells us emphatically that all humans belong to one race? The appropriate and correct term should be “interethnic” to underscore a cultural and/or ancestral difference. By using the word “interracial” we are accepting and promoting the misconception of multiple human races.

In addition, the word “mixed-race” is equally incorrect and confusing in that it also suggest the existence of more than one biological race. The idea would be laughable if it was not taken seriously by many Americans. How can a parent explain race to a child if the differences are only superficial if they exist at all? For example, what makes a person a member of a black or a white race? The answer cannot be color because too many exceptions exist. Little wonder many people “are challenging the notions of race.”

The article states that “The study finds that 8.4 percent of all current U.S. marriages are interracial, up from 3.2 percent in 1980.” When all so-called races are considered the article states that “more than 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were interracial.” The good news is according to Pew survey there exists a “greater public acceptance of mixed marriages, coming nearly half a century after the Supreme Court in 1967 barred race-based restrictions on marriage.”

The confusion with race continues anytime a word is associated with it because race is not clear. For example, we are told that “Due to increasing interracial marriage, multiracial Americans are a small but fast-growing demographic group, making up about 9 million, or 8 percent of the minority population.” Okay, who are the pure Americans? More specifically, who are the ones that fall out of the multiracial group? They do not exist! Using DNA, scientists say no biologically pure special race of humans exists.  The article continues, “Together with blacks, Hispanics and Asians, the Census Bureau estimate they collectively will represent a majority of the U.S. population by mid-century.”

In essence, what the survey information suggests is that so-called whites are a pure race, and that all the other citizens must find a category in which to put themselves. Of course, we know this is not practical, so how does one deal with race in the present situation? “Race is a social construct; race isn’t real,” so says “Jonathan Brent, 28. The son of a white father and a Japanese-American mother, Brent helped organized multiracial groups in southern California and believes his background helps him understand situations from different perspectives.”Unfortunately, Brent will never be able to understand himself or people like himself until he follows his own conclusion about race being unreal. As long as he sees himself as a member of a multiracial group, he will never be able to see himself as simply a member of the human race—no more no less.

As mentioned earlier, the problem with all this information is its meaninglessness. If an apple is referred to as a tomato without defining the apple, regardless of the number of references made relative to the tomato as an apple, the reference will always be incorrect because although they are both fruit, they belong to different families. Ethnic groups are member of the same family of human beings. As long as the word race is used to represent biologically distinct races of human beings, it will be incorrect. The primary differences among people are cultural, economic, religious, and geographical. So, when we are asked to define terms in a so-called racial survey for ourselves, the value and consistency of the information becomes a variable that will have little and different meaning to each person reading it. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that surveys and reports that continue to use the word race and its related words do nothing but promote and maintain confusion?

Towards the end of the article, Yen quotes Paul Taylor, director of Pew’s Social & Demographic project, who notes that “In the past century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to be a taboo and then to be merely unusual. And with passing year, it becomes less unusual. That says a lot about the state of race relations. Behaviors have changed and attitudes have changes.” While all that change is good, the most important thing that needs to change still remains—the incorrect use of the word race! As long as that remains, society will be like the preverbal dog chasing its tail.

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