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Instead of trading your lederhosen for a kilt, trade your white privilege for cultural awareness

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Thank you 23andMe for giving white people yet another way to try and make claim to minority status. As if straight, white, cis-women pretending they face the same struggles as non-heterosexual/transgender/of-color women, just because “all women are minorities,” wasn’t enough of a headache, there’s now a new trend to deal with: genetic ancestry testing.

For example, there’s the popular Ancestry.com advertisement called “Kyle Trades in His Lederhosen for a Kilt.” In the ad, someone who uploaded their information to the website discovered that he’s actually Scottish, and not German (as he grew up thinking). This apparently inspires him to swap out his traditional lederhosen for a Scottish kilt.

The ad seems cute, but there’s a caveat: it enables the idea that once someone finds out their “real” ethnic background, they gain the right to become part of their “true” culture.

Let’s try another example: someone’s bloodline isn’t 100 percent English as they previously thought –– their results now show that they’re 4 percent Ghanaian. At the next wedding they attend, they’re (hopefully) not going to break into a Kpanlogo dance that they know nothing about, have never experienced (or cared for), and don’t understand the significance of.

It appears that the thrill lies in people discovering that they’re not as white as they have the privilege of being. All of a sudden, this newfound knowledge about personal bloodlines means people get to claim a culture they previously had no connection to.

In a notable example, the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first and longest-running Native American newspaper, Brandon Scott, addressed the media headlines surrounding U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s announcement of DNA testing proving her Native American heritage.

“Native identity is not just about tracing a distant ancestor,” Scott wrote. “It’s about cultural heritage, our shared experiences, and participating in our community.”

Scott’s words show a common sentiment among minority groups: DNA testing doesn’t make your individual experience equal to that of one of your many, many ancient ancestors.

Some people get excited about not being 100 percent European because their results point toward 2 percent of their bloodline tracing back to Sub-Saharan Africa. News-flash, Karen: you’re not “biracial” because you had a black ancestor 200 years ago, you’re just a privileged by-product of your white ancestor’s propensity toward slavery and colonialism.

My family can be traced back at least three generations in the current Indian state of Punjab, and most likely many more generations before the 1947 Partition. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if my genetic testing results showed I was 3 percent European, because there’s probably a chance that some Dutch trader raped one of my ancestors, because that’s how colonialism works. Does that mean I’m trading in my gulab jamuns for oliebollen? Nope.

Swabbing the inside of a cheek or spitting into a tube only to get “exotic” results isn’t a way to make it appropriate for you to wear a racially-insensitive costume, or for you to check off boxes at school or work (“Being 1/64 Vietnamese means I can bring diversity to this team!”).

A DNA test that shows you “have a little bit of X ethnicity” is disrespectful, inappropriate, and completely ignorant. The results of a DNA test don’t automatically instill within you the values, traditions, and norms of that culture; they don’t connect you to the trauma, oppression, and discrimination that minority groups actually face; and they most certainly don’t give you the right to walk into an ethnic culture that you previously had no connection to and lay claim to its content.

From the African-Americans that can’t trace their bloodlines because of the effects of the slave trade, the Asians whose families turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by European traders, and the Native Americans who are tired of being asked what someone’s “tribal name” would be: please stop using DNA tests to lay claim to the daily oppression and historical trauma faced by ethnic minorities.

Appreciating, respecting, and taking the time to understand a culture is far more acceptable than assuming an online kit’s results grant you the right to step into a sphere that is tired of being invaded.

Reach writer Kiran Singh at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @SinghKiran20

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(4) comments

pok753

There's nothing wrong with white people or anyone of that matter to be curious about their genetic history. In your example, the author pretends white people are doing Kpanlogo dance's at their weddings just because of a DNA test. That example is completely different from a white man exchanging his lederhosen for something that matches his background better. I can't think of a single Scottish person that'd be mad about someone who would wants to start embracing their culture. Also, your clipart is blatantly offensive to all white males. It suggests white males are claiming they are oppressed just because of some tiny percent of their DNA belonging to a minority group. No one is claiming that! Or do you believe that only minorities can be racist? There's nothing wrong about a white man who finds pride in his heritage. There is something wrong about a writer pretending to have the moral high ground on white males and to shame them for being white. They're not being white, they're being human. Humans assimilate, humans are curious about other cultures, this isn't a race issue, its basic nature.

oOMEGAWEAPONo

While reading your article i found a few things very irrational on your part. I do agree with your part about the use of racist costumes, but with people of similar thoughts and ideas as you, they are to sensitive over some things. For example it has been seen as racially insensitive for a 7 year old wanting to dress up as a certain Disney character from a MOVIE. This is so crazy because as of someone so young they can been seen as doing something provocative like that, even though a child of that age could have no care in the world for race/culture/sex they just want to have fun and there parents shouldnt have to tell them no over something like this. While reading your article, i felt you were more worried about hating on white males rather than making argumentative points. I feel like you're correlate heavily with current idea of feminism, not the old idea of where men and women should be equal. You are more of the men are trash women are better then men. Also if someone finds out that they're any part of a culture and they want to educate themselves on it, do no harm and just learn and try new things... why cant they? You could careless about seeing anyone else's P.O.V. But what in today's society is wrong is the fact that it is not okay to make fun of any other gender or race except white males. Throughout your article you made arguments, that are irrational and racist. Pretty much what i learned from your argument is white males are trash, they cant do this or that, females are better then males. You wanna talk about privilege? Lets talk about female privilege when it comes our current court system. Females in any child case will be given more custody of the kids. Females will be given less time or no punishment for same crime a man commits. The problem with you is, you just want to assume white males have all this glory and privilege when in reality it is not there. Let me guess females get lower pay? DEBUNKED! Therefore, it brings us to your stupid title. In your article i found no evidence of "white privilege" as you call it. I found more of accusing white males (in general) of racism and hatred. which in some cases it may be true but that could be for any gender or race that is just how our world is and its horrible. But instead of saying "white privilege white privilege white privilege" understand that for their to be white privilege you would've needed to state something that they are given over you. I am sorry you're too incompetent to understand that and for that i hope you can receive some help. Have

SouthAfricanActualMinority

Bad opinion. This is what happens when you have someone who is clearly prejudiced, giving an opinion. All this article reflects is hate and a contempt and racism towards another race. Your article screams of "I want to be part of the popular plastics table", but reads more like a suicide note. Now little girl, let me tell you about being and actual minority in a country where minorities have no rights, since you give the impression that your little safezone is on the edge of a very sharp knife. Growing up in Africa is tough, even worse than your privilaged ancestors had in India. Africa has not seen a stable non-warring non-corrupt government since the majority of countries here started gaining independence in the 50s. South Africa gained independence from Britain in 1961, 14 years after your privilaged ancestors did in India in 1947. At last my country was free from the oppressive English. During the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars, thousands of South Africans of all races were savagely killed by the British, but we rose up and got our independence on the 31st of May 1961. We were free. We had a currency stronger than that if either the US ir the UK. The country grew in leaps and bounds under the nationalist political system. We had seperate developmental centers for each of the races as it proved very difficult mixing them all up. The africans were primitive as they had barely just gotten their languages down to written form, they had no concept of advanced mathematics or science. The Indians who were brought to South Africa were far smarter, but still not the equals of their European counterparts, and the coloured people (consisting of people of mixed racial backgrounds, and the Bushman Khoi and San people due to their different complexions to other african races) had educational difficulties of their own, not to speak of the fact that a perportiin of them were Cape-Malay adhering to the Muslim faith, while the rest either clinged to their own religions of Christianity, which made mixing them up difficult. So through all of this difficulty, races not being able to mix and different educational systems for the different races, the three minorities in South Africa, namely the white, Indian and coloured people thrived. Indians persued businesses of all shapes and sizes. Coloured people were mostly working class, al lot working the wine farms and businsses of the Cape Province, and whites taking the charge and developing everything from small one man business to large international conglomorates. Then in 94, change came. After years of pressure, the apartheid system gave way to democracy, and herein lies the caveat. You see you say white people are racist in wanting to know their heritage, yet you are a privilaged minority in a great country. Let me tell you what being a minority in a banana republic is like. Since the start of "democracy", the 45 millions blacks coming into power have felt to threatened by the minorities in this country, that they started eroding our human rights. They started with the whites first, demanding that skilled white workers be replaced with black workers. Since the africans were in charge of government, they lowered the standards of education to ensure that more africans would be able to attend university. This has been done so many times over the past 25 years, that our university degrees are now useless. We have lawyers who cannot read or write, chartered accountants who cannot do basic maths, doctors who got their degrees on attendance and not merrit and yet they are operating on people, engineers who design bridges that collapse even befire completion as they have no idea on how to do proper design. This is what the african majority has done in South Africa, can you say that the same thing is hapoening with the white majority in the US? Then to add injury to insult, after they were finished with the whites, they turned their attention to the coloured people. They claimed that coloured people were over-represented and that their numbers in local givernment and business needs to be reduced. The whole "woman as a minority" group followed soon after. They then turned their gaze to the extremely small Indian community of about 2 million, mostly in the coastal province of Kwazulu Natal. In 94, the africans were quick to try and drum up support from the Indian people, but they soon ignored them once they came into power. Hatred were spewed against the Indian minority. During all these difficult times, these minorities have survived and oroduced some of the most brilliant minds in South Africa, while the black majority were busy burning and looting the shops and factories of these minorities. Don't come and talk about white privilege when you live in a society where whites enabled your privilage. You have the ability to attend a world class university, maybe not for free, but of your own free will without interference, and without the knowledge that your degree won't be worth the paper it is written on. Your Indian privilage afforded your ancestors the ability to immigrate from India to the USA, but now that you are in an open and fair society, you complain about white privilege!? By shear virtue of your skin colour, under policies of affirmative action, you are almost guaranteed a job when competing against equally qualified white candidates, yet you complain about white privilege. Your minority is not violently oppressed by a communist government wanting to strio away fron you, everything you have worked your entire life for. Laws are not enacted against US minorities to make the theft of property, whether it be realty or personal possessions, or even your back account, legal, yet you complain about white privilege? You also never address the skewed imbalance in employment of Indian workers compared to other races in tech companies, yet you complain about white privilege. Let me close by saying, whites in the US are less privilaged than you are, you just don't want to admit it as you love olaying the victim card. You have a serious problem, something that would require a lot of introspection and a lot less entitlement. You can either go through life complaining about others constantly, or you can ignore those feelings, and be a rock star, you decide. Enjoy your Indian privilage, remeber, in Africa and India, there are Indian children who will never know the privilage that you know.

Natalie Rand

I'm not sure why what you're saying is so controversial, because I 100% agree. As a white person myself, I'm not going to start pretending to be "special" just because I'm 1% Cherokee or whatever because

1) It's dishonest to act as though I have a cultural connection to a part of my genetic makeup that I had no awareness of to begin with, and

2) It would feel slimy to take advantage of a minority culture by bragging about being "unique" without facing the discrimination that people who truly and visibly belong to that culture (skin color, language, etc.) face.

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