I had an interesting conversation the other day with friend of mine. She recently had her DNA tested to identify her ancestral identity and it got me thinking about the gift of DNA testing for individuals, families and society. The results of her test revealed her ties to Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. As she described her newfound knowledge it occurred to me, and she confirmed, that her world has opened up and her tolerance for different races and ethnicities has increased; because she now knows that she holds a wide breadth of diversity within her.
Changing demographics and political whims have challenged our notions of the benefits and liabilities of immigration and what it means to be an American. As humans, we tend to quickly and often subconsciously categorize people based upon things like religion, color, race, gender identity, ethnicity, age, etc. We are biologically programmed to make quick decisions about who is in our tribe and who is not. What we are driven to do biologically is not always in the best interest of society. Dividing ourselves by appearance or geography creates the potential for superficial judgements, discounting the humanity of those different from us, and fear of “the other”. And we all know that fear especially, drives people apart rather than unifies them.
How might it change your own perceptions of those who speak a different language or practice unfamiliar cultural behaviors, if you found out that in fact, your own history is tied to that language and culture? Would you want to know more about that part of your ancestry? Might you try to connect with others of that culture to seek commonalities? Do you begin to imagine yourself visiting far off lands where your ancestors walked? Many, if not most, would affirm this result once they found out that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their diverse ancestry. And when people are curious rather than fearful, they become more tolerant. They recognize more of the humanity and commonalities between people rather than what divides them. The gift of DNA testing for individuals, families and society is the curiosity and tolerance that is a natural outgrowth of the results of those tests. What a great gift to give to someone and to society.