RE: Dna Tests Can’t Tell You Your Race

This is a response to this article (click), a brief background: I am adopted, I was adopted before I was 12 months old and only recently discovered my genealogical and cultural roots. I did not discover my original birth certificate with my biological parent’s name on it until age 24. I’m 26 now.

I can not stand articles written by people who have done the bare minimum information. This is especially true when it comes to articles written about DNA testing kits (and/or the writer has absolutely zero formal qualifications — like a major or minor in genealogy, biology, or sociology). Why? These topics are very hot button subjects that are almost guaranteed to get a click, regardless of the quality of your article.

Popular DNA testing websites (FTDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, and Ancestry) have opened up the doors for those who previously had very little information about their genealogical history to suddenly have potentially a lot of information. These testing companies have thousands of members (Ancestry alone has more than 15 million people who have tested and gotten results with their company to give an example of just how large these companies have grown). These companies tweak their members’ results every few months to show them a better representation of their DNA estimation (as well as possibly any other features they might give them — like a direct estimation of where exactly their ancestors came from). These results are based on the other members' results as well as their own algorithms from the science they’ve developed. Ancestry right now has the largest member database.

For adopted and the foster care communities, these tests are absolutely vital to getting a foundation of “who” they are. These populations often get forgotten about and being adopted myself — I feel I must speak up. The truth is, DNA does not lie, people do. We see this all the time with DNA testing companies (who you thought was your biological parents aren’t actually your biological parents — you discover a “lost” sibling, you thought you had a lot of Italian in you when in reality you have nothing, etc.).

No one is saying that ethnicity tests are 100% accurate. The basic science says that we get roughly 50% of our genome from our mother and 50% from our father (the reality is it often “wavers” around 50%, like someone might have 45% from their mom and 55% from their father or 51% from their father and 49% from their mother, just to give two examples). However, ethnicity results, regardless of how small the percentage is, does give you a huge indicator of the migrational patterns of your ancestors. For example, if you only have 5% Middle Eastern ethnicity estimated, what possibly happened was your personal ancestors moved through that area and only had a small number of children in that area. Yes, if you want to get technical, we are all related to each other (science estimates your “furthest” cousin ranges between 60–65th). Family relationships are determined by how similar my DNA is to someone else’s.

Race is an extremely complex social idea (hierarchal structure in society, the appearance of a person’s skin and how it “blends” in with others, etc.). People need to understand that for those who look “racially ambiguous”, these DNA test results can provide answers. These DNA tests can open a door to those who grew up not knowing what culture they belonged to because they were cut off from their biological family tree for one reason or another. Cultural limbo is a very real phenomenon (very common with international adoptees) that DNA tests can help get rid of.

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.