African American DNA Research Forum
DNA Opinion Piece in the Washington Post
DNA Is Only One Way to Spell Identity
By Ralph W. Eubanks
Sunday, January 1, 2006; Page B04
"Every year," I once overheard my father say jokingly to a friend, "thousands of Negroes disappear." I remember my 8-year-old imagination going into overdrive, picturing people zapped from their homes in the middle of the night. It was only as I grew older that I realized that the people my father was talking about were choosing to disappear, running away from their families, not being taken from them. They were light-skinned blacks who could move into the white world undetected, denying their blackness and the exclusion they suffered in a white-dominated America.
I've been thinking of my father's joke a lot recently. It came back to me last month when scientists reported the discovery of a genetic mutation that led to the first appearance of white skin in humans. Reading about it, I wondered how it is that a minor mutation -- just one letter of DNA code out of 3.1 billion letters in the human genome -- is so highly prized that it has led scores of people to turn their backs on their families and has served to divide people for generations. Discovery of this mutation, combined with recent findings that all people are more than 99.9 percent genetically identical, has reinforced my belief that race is almost entirely a social demarcation, not a biological one.
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