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Monday, July 29, 2013

Reaction to surprises in one's ethnicity

Eight posts ago I reported my results from The biggest surprise was the 8% Finnish/Volga-Ural ethnicity.

In the earlier post, I mostly made jokes about the 8% "uncertain" part of the results. But on a more serious note: do people, when they see their results, identify more with whatever they find out they are? Do other people's allegiances undergo a subtle shift based on the results of their DNA test?

As I Google-Imaged "Finnish people" after seeing my results, did I feel a faint tug, a sense that these are my people? Not really. It was more just a feeling of mild curiosity. Will I now think of runner Paavo Nurmi, the "Flying Finn," or sniper Simo Hayha, the "White Death," with a small sense of pride? Probably not. But, after all, I'm only 8% Finnish. What if I had turned out to be 50% Finnish? My guess is that I probably would feel more of a sense of identification.

I have yet to meet the person of Irish descent, for instance, who does not make a fairly big deal out of the fact that he is Irish. What if someone who'd been adopted were to find out that he was 100% Irish? ( does not distinguish between the British isles, but for argument's sake, let's say they did.) Would that person then become a semi-professional Irishman like so many others? Would he, mid-life, all of a sudden be tempted to say self-deprecating things like, "It's hard to get anything into my thick Irish skull?" Or "Hey, I can't help it, I'm Irish, I like to drink?"

Or what if someone who had been adopted were to find out that he's 100% Jewish? Would his stance toward Israel become more charitable? Would he be tempted to learn about the religion, and possibly go through some of the rituals (short of a bris)?

After all, our ancestral DNA is who we are, at the most basic level. It's who we tend to identify with, who we root for, and who we side with. It's not coincidence that both Jesse Jackson (in '84 and '88) and Barack Obama (in '08 and '12) got upwards of 98% of the black vote in the primaries.

I recently asked a conservative young white man -- let's call him William -- what he would do if he found out he was part black. He immediately replied, "I'd become a black nationalist."

I asked, would you change your name? He said, "Nah, not really. Well, maybe a little. I'd probably just call myself Billy X."


W O D said...

LOL for real three times

Anonymous said...

I've always found the whole "American of Irish or Italian extraction who just won't shut up about it" thing extremely annoying; perhaps it's because, as an actual European-European, it seems very needy for a European-American to want sooo badly to be something other than American (it's not clear to me what's wrong with being American). Have some pride in yourselves, hyphenated-Americans.

I've actually met two Finnish-Americans who were about as annoying about it as your average Irish-American is, but hilariously they didn't seem to know the first thing about Finland (for instance, they were unaware that Finland was not an independent state until 1917).

John Craig said...

Anon --
I understand what you're saying, though disagree slightly. The Italian-Americans who make a big deal about it tend to do so in a "Hey, we're paisans" sort of way; which is all about clannishness. In the greater NYC area, at least in the outer boroughs, a lot of them try to imply that they're "connected" (to the Mafia), even though very few of them actually are, or, if they are, it's in an I-know-a-guy-who-knows-a-guy sort of way. It's all a little hard to swallow.

The Irish-Americans I've known, on the other hand, while they do make a big deal out of their Irishness, tend to do so in a more self-deprecating way, which is far easier to take. They'll make jokes about their thickheadedness, or their silliness on St. Patrick's day, or some such. If you haven't heard each of the individual jokes too many times, it can be quite charming.