Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has made it a personal pursuit of his to let people know how important and enriching delving into their genetics can be. He’s read the DNA of African-Americans from Oprah to Chris Rock to Don Cheadle, telling them where their ancestors originated and how much European blood they have (Oprah was famously disappointed that she wasn’t a Zulu). It’s been amazing to watch in Gates’ PBS specials, though it’s also been frustrating for many Blacks, who would like to research their own lineage but either can’t afford it or don’t know how. For those people, their time is now.
Starting today, personal genomics company 23andMe has begun its campaign to offer free genetics testing kits—normally a $200 expense—to 10,000 African-Americans. 23andMe was disappointed that only 1 percent of its customers were Black, despite the fact Blacks make up 13 percent of America, so it’s decided to offer the free tests in order to try and change that disparity. The rules state that participants must be 18 and have access to a computer, but otherwise any American with African descent can apply. Gates, who’s lending his support to 23andMe, thinks it’s a great idea.
“This research initiative presents a tremendous opportunity for African-Americans to learn essential information about themselves, their families and their ancestry,” he says on the 23andMe website.
Outside of that, it’s important to remember how studying one’s lineage can help eradicate racism in America and abroad. For instance, Gates’ program, African-American Lives, notes that 58 percent of Blacks have at least 12.5 percent European blood and 20 percent have at least 25 percent European blood. The fact is that the majority of Blacks has a significant amount of white heritage. The sooner everyone learns that all the races are muddled, the sooner we can get over the silly societal divisions we’ve created to separate ourselves.
(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)