Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I'm totally in favor of research into genetics and if people want to find out an approximation of their ancestry, more power to them. But I feel pretty confident in saying that these tests are not as reliable as they say they are. Moreover, a situation like this illustrates one of the many problems with these tests if they are used for anything more than satisfying curiosity:

"Ashley Klett's younger sister marked the "Asian" box on her college applications this year, after the elder Ms. Klett, 20, took a DNA test that said she was 2 percent East Asian and 98 percent European.

Whether it mattered they do not know, but she did get into the college of her choice.

"And they gave her a scholarship," Ashley said."

In this case, the Klett family completely took advantage of the school that the younger sister applied to. Based on the information available here, it is conceivable that the school offered extra incentives to the younger Ms. Klett on the sole basis of her Asian heritage. Of course this would be under the assumption that Ms. Klett would provide the school with the benefit of a more diverse student body and that she would perhaps expose others at the school to Asian traditions. In reality, she will surely provide none of that and be just another white girl (it won't surprise me in the slightest if lawsuits come out of situations like this soon). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but using the "one drop rule" for ancestry is wrong in my opinion (ironically, it was created with racism in mind, but is now being taken advantage of by "minorities" only when it suits them). Of course, the Kletts are working within a completely flawed system, so changing the admissions system should be the first priority.

The essential problem with this testing is that it perpetuates and encourages irrationality. I believe that a person is the sum of his/her life experiences, especially interactions with family, friends, and the world at large. Skin color is just a physical characteristic, not really different from a big nose (or at least it shouldn't be, although it would be naive to think that it doesn't make a fact it has a major influence on most peoples' life experiences, so it ends up helping shape people). So, the idea that after living your entire life one way and then finding out that you are 2% East Asian should make you consider yourself fully Asian is preposterous. If Ms. Klett would like to explore her Asian heritage further, she should go ahead (although 2% is probably close to the margin for error...), but she shouldn't lie to herself and others. She is mostly European and has been raised in that environment accordingly for better or worse.

This post is a sort of mess of what I was thinking when I read this article. Most people in the world are of some sort of mixed heritage (even as small as 2% mixed...) and if any good can come out of this testing, I hope it's that it unites people by their more common ancestry, rather than dividing them. So that people are judged on the basis of their words and deeds, not which box they check on college applications. Ideally there would be no boxes. For example, who is more Asian? A caucasian who grew up and went to school in Tokyo speaking Japanese every day for 18 years? Or a third-generation Japanese kid who went to school in Los Angeles and whose only knowledge of the language is from "Mr. Roboto?" You tell me.


  1. Domo arigato to you, Rich.

  2. please don't call someone who is 2% asian a 'minority'

  3. ashley klett is my roommate and when you insult her i feel it in my 21% native american, 16% sub-saharan, 63% european bones! ouch! do we not all feel?

  4. at least she is 100 percent cool!!!!!!!!1