Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy on 2018-10-25 00:51Z by Steven

Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them

The New York Times

Carl Zimmer

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test results indicated that she had a Native American ancestor several generations ago.
Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Our genetic code cannot be treated as a matter of simple fractions.

People have always told stories about their ancestral origins. But now millions of people are looking at their DNA to see if those stories hold up. While genetic tests can indeed reveal some secrets about our family past, we can also jump to the wrong conclusions from their results.

The reception of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA results is a textbook case in this confusion…

…Slavery, too, led to an obsession with increasingly tiny fractions of ancestral blood, reaching the absurd extreme of the “one drop” rule. A single black ancestor — no matter how far back in the family tree, no matter how tiny the mythical drop of blood he or she contributed — was enough to make a person black…

…But DNA is not a liquid that can be divided down into microscopic drops. It’s a string-like molecule, arranged into 23 pairs of chromosomes, that gets passed down through the generations in a counterintuitive way.

Eggs and sperm randomly end up with one copy of each chromosome, coming either from a person’s mother or father. In the process, some DNA can shuffle from one chromosome to its partner. That means we inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average. Any one person may inherit more DNA from one grandparent and less from another.

Over generations, this randomness can lead to something remarkable. Look back far enough in your family tree, and you’ll encounter ancestors from whom you inherit no DNA at all…

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Racial Passing and Double Consciousness in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-10-25 00:35Z by Steven

Racial Passing and Double Consciousness in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain

Philip Roth Studies
Volume 14, Number 1, 2018
pages 55-69
DOI: 10.5703/philrothstud.14.1.0055

Dyanne K. Martin, Assistant Professor of English
Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Floirida

Philip Roth’s nuanced understanding of the issues of race in pre- and post-Civil Rights America offers fresh thinking in a field that perhaps needs to explore new directions. The approach in this article is to use techniques of semiotics to assess the subtle cues in the linguist protagonist’s language as his statements move in and out of clarity, ambivalence, and doubleness. I argue that these forms of semiotic doubleness represent the dualities and ironies with which mixed-race people struggle in a society still divided by race.

Much has been said about Philip Roth’s use of racial passing as a trope in his novel The Human Stain. Critics such as Luminita Dragulescu and Jennifer Glaser argue that the novel represents the complexities of identity performance. Dragulescu, in particular, positions Roth’s use of racial passing as “a terrain of discursive power” (96). Glaser agrees with Dragulescu but adds that Roth’s mixed-race protagonist, Coleman Silk, portrays the traumatic complexities of the mulatto’s decision to traverse not just the color line but also the ethnic line. Passing as both white and Jewish, Silk illustrates what Glaser calls the “ongoing dynamics of racializcd power” in the discipline of critical race theory, a theory that is “inherently comparative” (1465). While these critics have engaged important issues in The Human Stain, they leave unaddressed Roth’s use of verbal or syntactic ambivalence in relation to the trope of racial passing in his novel. When Coleman Silk in a pivotal scene lashes out that he “don’t carry no nigger,” he seems, ostensibly, to be making a simple, straightforward statement (Stain 117). Yet Silks words are both…

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