There were over 12 million people who signed up during the popularity of DNA testing at home. People would surrender their DNA, commonly with a spit or saliva sample. This was especially rampant for those who were seeking refuge in knowing more about their origins. There were several reasons as to why one would attempt to find out more about their lineage. Some are just plain curious while others use this as an opportunity to learn more about their parents who are otherwise unavailable. These DNA testing facilities promised that they could identify the history of your family with a simple sample. But could that be enough to end all the racism in the world though?
The results of the testing would be released onto people via e-mail. There you would find a detailed analysis of your DNA sample by country of origin. The digital map would then place a percentage on where your DNA would be comprised on.
You could receive a sort of mixed answer like 43% Nigerian, 1% Kenyan, and then suddenly have 55% Irish heritage. That might seem like a big jump but it could be due to the combination of your parents’ lineage.
This brought about much shock and change into people’s lives. They would find out traces of their origin that were unknown even to them. That led to a lot of emotional fallouts about one’s identity. In fact, you could see people suddenly either embrace their new cultural lineage or deny it outright. Some even questioned the legitimacy of these DNA origin tests because they have no features that would point out that a certain country is their origin.
With every rise to popularity, however, there is always an increase in doubters. You are going to submit sensitive genetic information about yourself willingly with your information freely being available for people hack on their open-source DNA testing site. And it is not just a privacy issue we have to deal with when submitting our genetic sample willingly to strangers. It is also the amount of emotional fallout one can have when they figure out some unsettling news about their origins. This can create an identity crisis among people that could potentially resort into depression or familial dispute.
A woman by the name of Ayshah Blackman was involved in a tv show in the U.K. called “The Secrets In My Family” She was a simple woman in her 50s who was born from a family of the Caribbean descent and is currently living in London. There were only 2 things about her family that she was certain on:
- She had an Indian heritage
- Her father has another daughter that she has no connection with
Blackman was coerced into partaking in the DNA test to help find more about her origins. This could potentially lead her to her long-lost sibling. However, the results of the test were not as expected. Her results had shown that she actually has zero connection to her Indian heritage. This caused her to start to seriously doubt her identity and existence as it made her wonder if her family was lying or that there was an affair that happened somewhere along the family tree. It even destroyed her view of her own family.
The result of the DNA ancestry test, instead, showcased that Blackman’s DNA origins are actually linked to parts of West Africa. Although, Blackman did say that she expected the connection to West Africa due to her 43% Benin, Togo DNA results. However, she was also deemed as 13% Scandanavian and parts Native American and British but absolutely zero connection to India. Blackman stated that she felt deep agony from finding out that her whole family history was built on lies.
One’s ancestry is something that should be treasured upon for it could easily be muddied up with years of interracial breeding, colonialism, slavery, and even rape. The history of a person’s ancestry is the only thing that can tether you from your family lineage. Incidents such as Blackman’s case are some of the examples where generations of history and narratives were suddenly shattered due to a single DNA test.
Blackman’s final statements on the show were her feeling dejected from her tribe of Indian ancestry despite decades of her life carrying that supposed bloodline with pride. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t” claimed Blackman.
You can watch multiple videos of people all over the internet showcasing the results of their DNA sample tests for everyone to see. These people would treat the whole process as some kind of toy reveal as they would take the kit and do the whole cheek swabbing process and would cut to the results being shown. Most would then be shocked and even appalled by the results that they were given and would start to question their own identity. You can even find some videos wherein they would confront their own parents on whether or not they have been faithful to each other or not. These videos caused so much controversy from everyone and is still a rampant problem to this day.
One such video was posted from a woman named Shana Dennis, aged 34. She made a YouTube video showcasing her experience in attempting to figure out more about her heritage as she was born in India but was adopted by an Australian family when she was only 6 weeks old. Her test was done to analyze her DNA to showcase that she had no connection to her Indian heritage despite being born there. Instead, she had various traces leading her DNA origin to central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and more. 44% of her DNA was from a place she never thought to be on her DNA origins.
This has caused severe confusion on both the legitimacy of these DNA testing centers and her own familial origins.
Another woman, Racheal Nye aged 30 from London, had also decided to undergo DNA testing in hopes to figure out her grandmother’s true origins. She claimed that her grandmother would constantly shift her answers on where she was originally born and even has 2 different passports but with different names. As such, Racheal’s curiosity got the best of her and she decided to partake in this DNA origins test.
She had originally expected something along the lines of being British or African origin due to her grandmother once claiming she was from either country. The DNA analysis center had shown her results to be 76.9% European originated, specifically parts from the U.K., France, and Scandinavia. However, her African heritage proved to be less detailed as a result with 21.9% of her DNA claiming to be of Sub-Saharan African, 13.9% West African, 5.1% East African, and 0.4% “African hunter-gatherer”.
The results proved to be inconclusive for Nye due to the inconsistency in breakdown when it comes to her African origin. Most of the world’s population have originated in African culture and yet most DNA testing sites do not have the capacity to trace the origins of the people’s African heritage. That, in turn, caused plenty of people to declare racism towards the DNA testing facility.
Since then, multiple initiative projects in the African regions have been launched to address the situation at hand and improve their database. The company has established the “African Genetics Project” in which people in Africa were given free DNA testing kits to people with all 4 of their grandparents being born in the same African country, tribe, or ethnic group. Further projects such as the “Populations Collaborations Project” are now underway with this one, in particular, allows them to study remote conglomerations and send their data directly to their database.
However, this has only caused more controversy on the company as it has been shown that they are selling the information they received from those African people to major drug companies for research purposes to create new forms of medicines to sell back to the very same people who’s DNA was used to form the new medications in the first place. The users in Africa were just informed if they would agree to participate in scientific research when they sign up for the DNA testing without informing them of the actual details they would be given away.
This has caused major backlash towards the DNA testing facilities as they are using sensitive private information of people to be used to illegally sell to big companies that need more information on people. That is a serious violation of one’s privacy and human rights. The very essence and DNA origins of a person could be used to discriminate clients and potential employees before they can even attempt to make contact just because of the history of their ancestors. You can even see the criminal justice system use this to specify the accused origins as if that would result in a different form of punishment.
The question that should instead be focused on here would be on why are we so keen on figuring out our ancestry as a means of finding our identities. Would it not mean more that we consider our “ethnicity” from our cultural and social traits instead? A person’s individuality should not be based on the color of their skin nor the history of their ancestry. Instead, we should look into who we are as a person. Our individual traits are what defines us, not our history.
These DNA companies are just using the phrase “ethnicity” as a fancy word to define one’s race and color. Genetics study has proven that you cannot clearly define a certain race as one thing because everyone has mixed genes at some point in their lives. The formation of our genes is not equally distributed to our parents. As such, you can see biracial parents with a more light or dark-skinned child than the other. Everyone is always racialized in a certain fashion. However, these companies use this as a means to exploit the people into thinking that their origins are what defines them. They are promoting the notions of the race instead of accepting that we are a mixed world now. Instead, they use this to get profits and spring fear into the hearts of many.
Decoding one’s history is only a small fraction in figuring out one’s identity. Do not succumb to instantly denying one’s own heritage regardless of what a website would claim. Ancestry is something that you can carry on culturally no matter the origin or the skin color. Your bloodline does not define who you are as a person. Your genetics may tell your family’s history but your story is your own to write.
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