When a racist is outed as a…minority

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Not so pure after all, huh, Dr. Watson? / PBS

To be filed under N, for nyah, nyah:

You’ll recall that James Watson, the Nobel winner and world-famous geneticist, was widely outed recently as a rabid racist. You’ll recall that he’s been spouting garbage like Africans have lesser intelligence, Latinos are genetically programmed to be horny, and women should abort babies if they find they are predestined to be gay. You’ll recall we discussed this insanity at length in this post I titled “Dr. Watson, is racism in your DNA?”

So it was with sheer and unbridled glee that I learned what is in his DNA is some African ancestry. According to Newsday,

News that geneticist James Watson inherited 16 percent of his DNA from an African ancestor may provide the Nobel Prize winner with a new perspective on his ancestry.

I’ll say!

Scientists at deCode Genetics, the highly respected enterprise of gene-trackers in Reykjavik, Iceland, used Watson’s genome, which he had posted online, to plumb his ancestral roots. Tucked in his DNA was a story never told — at least not in his biographies.

Watson didn’t respond to Newsday’s requests for comment. But Watson, who resigned in late October as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the wake of the furor over his racist remarks, must have seen this coming. After all, he posted his own genetic fingerprint online. After all, this is the day and age of easy genetic testing. After all, he surely knew his comments would make him a target at least of curiosity.

This all reminds me of a terrific and very funny article written by my former colleague, Carolina Miranda, about her own adventures in genetic testing. She writes,

If they held a convention for racial purity, I would never make the guest list. Like most other Latin American families, mine is a multiethnic stew that has left me with the generic black-eyed and olive-skinned look typical of large swaths of the world’s population. My father’s family is from Peru, my mother’s from Chile. Their parents were born and reared in South America. Beyond that, I know nothing about my ancestors. That was fine by me–until the new and growing industry of personal DNA analysis created a need I never knew I had.

I relate. I too am a mutt: my mother’s Japanese; my father’s German, Irish and Cuban. I guess the difference between Watson and people like me and Carolina is that our impure genetic lines are obvious in our appearance. But just because you look one way doesn’t mean your DNA won’t tell another story. Here’s what I propose: let’s ask every prominent racist to volunteer their genomes for testing. Think that’ll shut them up?

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