How Many ‘White’ People Are Passing?Breaking News
tags: racism, Black History, Blacks
I am currently filming guest interviews for Season 2 of Finding Your Roots, our genealogy series airing on PBS this September. One of the most intriguing pieces of information we share with our guests is the “admixture” results contained in their DNA—their percentages of European, Native American and sub-Saharan African ancestors over the past 200 years or so. “The past is never dead,” William Faulkner once famously wrote. “It’s not even past.” The record of your ancestral past, in all of its complexity, is hidden in your autosomal DNA. And what surprises your DNA holds!
Virtually everyone we’ve tested has expressed a desire to see some diversity of ancestry reflected in their DNA results. The African Americans almost always guess that they have much higher percentages of Native American ancestry and much lower percentages of European ancestry than they actually have, which is not surprising since African Americans have long embraced the myth that their great grandmother with “high cheeks and straight black hair” looked that way because of a relationship between an ancestor who was black and another one who was Native American. But scientific results show that very few African Americans have a significant amount of Native American ancestry: In fact, according to a study just published by23andMe researcher Katarzyna “Kasia” Bryc (also a colleague in the lab of David Reich at Harvard Medical School), only about 5 percent of African Americans have at least 2 percent of Native American ancestry, while the average African American has only 0.7 percent Native American ancestry. At the same time, Bryc’s research shows that the average African American has a whopping 24 percent of European ancestry, which explains why great-Grandma had those high cheekbones and that straight black hair.
Interestingly, my guests with Euro-American family backgrounds often guess that they have some African ancestry, since humanity first emerged in East Africa tens of thousands of years ago. But DNA inherited from ancestors, let’s say, some 50,000 years ago, is not measurable through the autosomal DNA tests we give to our guests, since these tests only accurately measure your recent ancestry, again, just over the last two or three centuries. To my surprise, many express disappointment that this distant African ancestry isn’t present in their results.
But what about the presence of recent African ancestors in a “white” person’s family tree? Here’s where DNA becomes quite fascinating!
‘Hidden’ African Ancestry
Although long suspected, what hasn’t been confirmed until now is how many self-identified “white” women and men are walking around today with recent “hidden” African ancestry in their families—you know, white people who, at least according to the old, notorious “one-drop rule” of the Jim Crow era, would have been considered legally “black.” How many of them don’t know it? How many might sense it but aren’t sure why? And how would they react if they did know? For Southerners, in particular, there are more than just Confederates in the Attic. And the proof and guide is their DNA.
Here’s how Scott Hadly reported Kasia Bryc’s findings on the 23andme website on March 4, 2014: “Bryc found that about 4 percent of whites have at least 1 percent or more of African ancestry, known as “’hidden African ancestry.’”
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Transcribed Document: Soviet Politburo Discussed CIA Billion Dollar Spy Adolf Tolkachev
- Pentagon withholds Iraq War photos showing detainee abuse
- These Rebels Have Amassed A Library From Syria’s Ruins
- Was 1916 fire at Canadian Parliament set by German saboteur?
- United Nations Calls On U.S. To Pay African Americans Reparations For Slavery
- Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest Destiny
- History Jobs Drop
- Paul Krugman gives credence to Robert J. Gordon's pessimism about American economic growth
- Harvard President Drew Faust Condemns Free Tuition Proposal from Outsider Overseers Ticket
- Andrew Roberts says Trump is the Mussolini of America with double the vulgarity