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.

Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotry

March 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, whites | Leave a comment
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The public apology by Levi Pettit in the company of some African American community representatives has created a number of questions that warrant discussion. A few of those questions include: Why did Pettit choose to apologize to this group of citizens? Why did Levi Pettit select Senator Anastasia Pittman to seek redress? Why did the group of African American citizens accept Pettit’s apology? What did the public apology accomplish? To many people, the public apology of Pettit with the African Americans was a photo opportunity that only served to created additional questions.

In answer to the question of why Pettit chose Sen. Pittman and the other African Americans that composed the group to offer his apology, he stated “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I came here and apologized to the community most directly impacted.” This statement reflects a gross sense of ignorance and a lack of understanding of what his words and actions on the frat bus really meant. Pettit’s thinking that this group of African Americans were “most directly impacted” is misguided and underscores his lack of understanding regarding what he did.

The group that Pettit should have met with and offered a public apology was The University of Oklahoma community, the students, organization leaders and civic leaders because those are the entities he mostly represented. His comments and actions reflected the lack of education and knowledge of history relative to the African American experience in America from Plymouth Rock to Selma, and the blame must be shared by those groups as well as the rest of society. Unfortunately, Pettit must have thought that African Americans are a monolith and that by making an apology to this particular group of African Americans, he was apologizing to all African Americans. He was grossly mistaken.

The fact that Pettit selected Sen. Pittman to assist with his plans for his apology could rest with the fact that she represents a large number of African Americans in Oklahoma City by virtue of her political office. In essence, more African Americans could be reached through Pittman, than any other public African American figure. With her social influence, she was able to bring together a group of religious and community leaders to share in this public apology by Pettit. Some people believe that Pittman showed a lack of judgment by not involving and bringing into the group other non-African American representatives from the clergy and civic organizations. By not doing so suggest that she accepted the narrow understanding of Pettit’s bigotry in that it affected “mostly” African Americans.

One wonders why this group of African Americans would allow themselves to be placed in a situation of compromise by Pettit. Does he need a public showing of African Americans forgiving him for his words and action, so he could move forward with his life? The sincerity of his apology is not what is in question here, but the use of people who were not directly involved in his words and actions suggest the need for a shield against future criticism. Pettit’s statement “I never considered myself a racist, I never considered it a possibility,” should have been a warning to the African Americans that this young man was totally ignorant about being a racist as well as racism. Evidently, many of the African American group members were not aware of Pettit’s comments or were equally uninformed. In other words, what purpose did Pettit’s apology serve the group since they did not represent all African Americans? In addition, since Pettit stated that he did not consider himself a racist, for what was he apologizing? The only possible thing the African American group could accept an apology for would be Pettit’s ignorance of racism. However, the group knowing that a student attending a university must have completed high school and demonstrated a control of basic knowledge relative to the world and America, why would they believe that Pettit did not connect the “rope” in his frat song with lynching?

To many people, Pettit’s public apology was simply a media photo opportunity that allowed him to save face by pleading ignorance before a group of forgiving African Americans. Being sorry for an action or denigrating ethnic references does not mean a full comprehension of the problem. Stories, pictures, words relative to the African American experience in history might serve to inform Pettit’s understanding of the challenges faced in the past and present, but until he realizes that his real audience is his family and all European Americans, and that American bigotry is a fabric of his and our daily existence, his apology is just words, as Shakespeare said “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Pettit is the only person who gains from the photo opportunity because he is able to show how he has been affected by his experience. Unfortunately, for Pittman, and the African American group, the suggestion as a result of the public apology is that anytime someone who is not an ethnic American says or acts in a disparaging way towards African Americans, all that needs to be done is to contact an important African American community leader and request a group meeting, open to the public for the media’s sake, and ask for forgiveness. Then, right there in front of the world, all will be forgiven, and life can go on.

The problem in forgiving someone for being a racist is that nothing is forgiven; the fact that the term racist is used underscores the ignorance of the problem. Racism is not an action or activity; it is a mindset that society engendered and perpetuates as normalcy in American society. The reason Pettit could never consider himself to be a racist is because he was always taught to look outside of himself for what he considered racist behavior, something quite different from the song he was singing on the frat bus. The problem with Pettit and the public apology is the suggestion that problems of American racism can be intelligently addressed; they cannot. They can only serve to perpetuate the myth of race.

Paul R. Lehman, The challenge of leaving race in the past and pressent and moving to the future

February 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Human Genome, justice system, Prejudice, race, racism, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system | 1 Comment
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An article written by Brit Bennett entitled “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People,” published by JEZEBEL (12/17/14) is a well-written and personal account of Ms. Bennett’s experiences and relationships with people she refers to as white. This article would fit quite well in the early 1960’s and would have probably been well-received. Today, however, her treatment of the subject shows a refusal to leave the past and move ahead, which would aid greatly in eliminating her conundrum with white people.
One of the first things she should do is bring her information regarding the concept of race up-to-date. She needs to recognize that all human being belong to just one race—the human race. The fact that she refers to European Americans as white people indicate that she supports the concept of a black and white race, which is a fallacy—a creation of society. Because she still sees people relative to a color, she can never move beyond the color to the human being. Her view of society is filtered through the race box. In essence she sees herself and others using the past and present as her guide and not moving beyond both past and present to the future.
We know through scientific studies on DNA that all human beings are 99.9% alike. If we were to take away the skin complexion, hair texture, the eye’s shape, we would all look the same. We have been conditioned to ignore the many similarities we humans share and dwell on the few differences that are man-made. For example, we have been conditioned to look at cultural differences as though they were biological differences. Society has even organized these cultural differences and have us recognized them as stereotypes. These stereotypes are meant to represent the entire group of people as if no individual differences existed among the people in the group. If social progress is to be made, we as a society must move beyond the false racial concepts of the past.
Another thing Ms. Bennett can do is stop helping to support the concepts of a black and white race by not using those terms. The concept of race exists in a similar vein as does Santa Clause in that it is a myth, but people behave as though it is real. Why? The answer is because there is a reward in it for them. Moving beyond the race box means a step into the future. We know the importance of the past because it contains our history, but we also know that our history reveals the choices we made that brought us to the present. Now we must make choices that will move us into the future. Some of those choices are difficult to divorce.
Ms. Bennett wrote that ”Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement.” She continued “A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for their decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good?”
As readers of the article, we can certainly appreciate the sensitive and emotional investment given to this observation. However, Ms. Bennett never defines “Good White People,” and because they are not defined, the reader must make the assumption that they are viewed through the race box; her use of the term racist underscores the point. Calling someone a racist relieves them of the opportunity to assume responsibility for their bigotry. A racist is an individual who represents a group, but the responsibility for bigotry falls to the individual.
The majority of people born and educated in America received a bigoted perspective of society; that is, regardless of their ethnic identity, they were made to view European Americans as the only normal people. Being normal meant that all the values and standards were based on their ethnic group. In effect, because all people were conditioned to see European Americans as the normal human being, they were forced to view themselves as less than normal. Today, we know that no such thing as multiple biological races exist, so the concepts of racial superiority or white supremacy is all fallacy. What is fact, however, is the result of discrimination and prejudice in preventing opportunities for advancement in every area of society by people of color; the playing fields were and are not level. One cannot expect to compete fairly when the conditions leading up to the competition were not fair.
What Ms. Bennett observed in “her good white people” are the changes taking place in society that are throwing into question the mindset of many European Americans. Again, part of the problem as suggested by Bennett comes from the fact that she feels she must do something with “good white people.” Once she moves outside of the race box, she will realize that it is the European America (white people) who must do something—remove the blinders of color, not culture, and see themselves as fellow human beings. Our removing the stigma of ethnic bigotry from society is a difficult and challenging objective, but one that must be undertaken. We will know that progress is being made when people stop referring themselves by color.
Traditional public and private education has done little to inform society regarding the history of America. That is why many Americans see themselves as different from other Americans because of some superficial differences. As society moves away from the concept of race by color and accept the available empirical evidence relative to our being one human family, the problem faced by Bennett will no longer exist. People of color already know they are normal human beings; the challenge is to get the rest of society to accept that fact so we all can move into the future together.

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