There was a commercial by Ancestry.com airing earlier this year featuring what appeared to be a fair complected woman with thick, flowing, curly black hair who was identified as a subscriber to their DNA identification service. The commercial reveals that she has just discovered that she is a descendant of some unidentified ancient African tribe in Ghana where “the WOMEN RULED and YIELDED TO NO ONE!” I never heard of such a tribe but just imagine this young woman’s good fortune to discover her cool heritage- and not too long after Black Panther made a billion dollars reshaping our imaginations around Africa and promoting formidable, warrior-women JUST like the ones in the commercial. How COOL is that and how lucky is she?!
In fact, she is narrating the commercial in voice over and says, – and I’m paraphrasing here – “See? That’s why I don’t take no b.s. from nobody! Because I come from this tribe! Back off b*tches!!” Of course if you look closely at the DNA pie-chart it reveals that this proud young woman gets only 15% of her genetic code from this unidentified African tribe.
The commercial they released just prior to the Wakandan princess ad featured a young man who is pretty Anglo-Saxon-looking at a glance. However, he has now discovered- thanks to Ancestry.com- that he has deep Native American roots. In his story, he tracked down his native tribal relatives to learn about the horrors of the “Trail of Tears.” His pie chart revealed that he was a whopping 6% Native American. That’s right- 6%.
I am hoping that you have caught on to the fact yet that we are all being hustled right now. I call it the heritage hustle and its a massive con-job with all Americans as the marks. The companies that are offering to reveal our true and hidden identities to us by testing a sample of our saliva are making a fortune and are giving us virtually nothing tangible in return. Most reasonably sophisticated people understand that race is a social construct- the purest and most durable creation of social engineering in world history. Notwithstanding our centuries old obsession with the racial lines that separate us, there is no biological science supporting the existence of race at all. But that has not stopped the free market from finding yet another means of exploiting our obsession with race and group identity for profit.
Here’s the deal: in our vanity and never-ending search for validation, people are being conned into paying these genetic research companies to provide them with a break-down of the regions of the world where their ancestors likely lived. That is fair enough but what makes the enterprise appealing – and what I find appalling – are the conclusions you are encouraged to extrapolate from that data. So the young lady in the commercial we referenced is being psyched up to attribute her fiery nature and strong constitution to this unnamed African tribe despite the fact that 85% of her genetic make-up is from other parts of the world- primarily the United Kingdom. But I suppose Great Britain and Ireland are the boring parts because in America just about everybody has some of that in them. Those regions actually make up almost 50% of her DNA. As her narrative has been framed, that’s just the vanilla ice cream. Ancestry.com wants you to pay them your hard earned cash to find that Rocky Road or pistachio flavor that may be in your genes. You know, the bad-ass African tribeswomen part or the soulful Native American tribesmen part. THAT’s what sets you apart from the crowd and why you’ve always known you’re special- isn’t it?
The whole pitch is snake-oil bullshit and harmful bullshit at that. There is absolutely no reliable science supporting the idea that character traits are attachable or assignable to geography. To the extent that they attach to our concept of race is relative and entirely subjective because as we established above race is nothing more than a social construct. So it follows that people’s behavior can be influenced by race as a function of NURTURE rather than NATURE. So if somebody believes that black men are prone to angry outbursts and then as a result of that belief treats a black man they encounter like he is incapable of controlling his emotions, that man may very well have an angry outburst because of the insulting assumption that was made about him. So its an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy and a self-perpetuating mythology. And round and round we go: the racial Merry-Go-Round just keeps turning and somehow, someway there is somebody making money by keeping it moving.
Don’t get me wrong; true knowledge of self is always a good thing. But if you look at it from the wrong angle or take the wrong perspective the good can get bogged down in the bullshit. In this case, how about just encouraging people to engage in the genetic testing to either debunk or validate questionable family mythologies like the “We got Indian in our family” fairy-tale that about 9 out of 10 black folks will report verbally when in fact less than 1 out of 100 can validate the claim through genetic testing. So the young lady will have to figure out who to credit for her high cheek bones, red-undertones and silkier than average hair texture.
Correcting falsehoods is a big ticket value in my book, so using these DNA tests to prove how dumb and destructive “The One Drop Rule” really was or the utter foolishness of any racial caste systems at all works for me. Driving home the scientific fact that nobody is purely ANYTHING and most of us are not even primarily any one thing can only help to lay the tracks for a more evolved and enlightened nation.
When you get down to the core of the issue, these companies are marketing information that is ostensibly objective truth but is being driven by a sales-pitch that is pure subjectivity and mythology. Because of that, the true value of what they may have to offer the world will be lost – the fact that we are all more closely connected than we realize. The beauty of the new world is that the ancestry you came from does not define where you are going or even how you get there. The individual has greater efficacy today than at any time in the history of the world. So if you don’t take any shit from anybody and as a result you win in the game of life it is because of YOU – not the Wakandan Warrior Queen you believe to be your great ancestral mother. She is about as real to you as the one you watched at the movies flying a spaceship between the real world and her imaginary one.