I’ve been fascinated with the DNA ancestry testing ever since I saw the National Geographic special, “The Human Family Tree”, about the Genograph Project. They take a diverse group of various ethnic people in New York, and trace back to their common origins. It’s so powerful, I’d love to see it made mandatory viewing in every school in the world – because when you find out that you’re related to everyone else, it’s a little silly to feel like any one group is better. So I thought this story about one man’s response to his DNA testing was illustrative:
Onorato’s best guess is that his people shuttled between southern and eastern Europe, driven by disease, religious persecution, changing weather patterns, and the search for fertile soil.
But where does that non-Caucasian blood come from, he wondered. Probably from slaves who’d been kidnapped from Australia and sold along the Silk Road, the trade route that linked Asia and the Mediterranean.
Does knowing this make a difference in how you see yourself? I asked.
“I have always thought of myself as a white Italian American from South Jersey, and I’m really 25 percent non-Caucasian,” he said. “I was very prejudiced. I don’t think I wanted to hurt anyone, but I wanted to be able to live where I wanted to and pick my friends. I definitely wasn’t very liberal with that stuff. I think as I grew up, that changed.
“My wife and sister say now I should be more sensitive to other people, which maybe I am. You always hear, regardless of religion, we’re all made in God’s image. Maybe we’re all mixed up and not that uniquely different.”