In Southern Genes, 'Black' and 'White' Get a Little Gray

Many white people have black ancestry, vice versa
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2014 11:17 AM CST
In Southern Genes, 'Black' and 'White' Get a Little Gray

A simple cheek swab can reveal a lot about your DNA, and for 6 million Americans who identify as white, mostly in the South, that swab has revealed African ancestry hidden in their genes, the Washington Post reports. One in 10 Southerners have at least 1% African origins, and the reason isn't hard to pinpoint: Slavery. The study, conducted by 23andMe, also found African Americans today are more likely to have a European male ancestor (19%) than a female one (5%). "That, of course, reflects what historians know about white slave owners raping enslaved women who descended from Africa," writes Jenée Desmond-Harris at Vox. The study even reveals that this blending started in the early 1800s.

The study examined the DNA profiles of about 160,000 people; the data was compared to where they lived and which race they identified with. They found people with less than 15% African genes didn't identify as black and the average African American's genes are at least 24% European. "Descriptors like 'black' and 'white' mean a lot less from a biological standpoint than they do from a cultural one," writes the Post's Christopher Ingraham. Some other interesting finds, according to Discovery:

  • 5% of African Americans have 2% Native American ancestry; the highest is 14% in Oklahoma, where Native Americans were displaced after the Trail of Tears.
  • Iberian ancestry was common in Latinos from Florida and the Southwest.
  • Scandinavian ancestry is highly concentrated in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
  • Native ancestry among Latinos is concentrated in Texas and California.
(Stress also lingers in your DNA.)

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