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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 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 Twitter: @SinghKiran20

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(2) comments


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.


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

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