Popular genetic testing services like 23andMe and AncestryDNA offer users the chance to explore their ancestral pasts, digging deep into the bitter truths that shape their identities today. Yet, a few online white nationalists found a way to taint the journey of self discovery by using genetic tests to prove to themselves (and others) how white their ancestries really are.
Per an in-depth exposé by Vice, white nationalists from all over have been congregating on popular web forums like Reddit and 4chan to discuss their DNA results — with the hopes that they come back showing 100 percent European ancestry. Not to mention, some online trolls express pity on those who discover they have an ounce of anything other than European blood.
“Oy vey. My ancestry dna results are back,” a user named “eagleshigh” posted on the forum Voat.com. According to Vice, the user’s DNA chart showed 7 percent African ancestry and 22 percent Native American ancestry.
A fellow user commented below it, reassuring “eagleshigh” that there’s “… no way anyone’s lineage avoided rape. While there is no way to prove that, I am positive it’s true.” Another user told him he was “deffo mostly White” despite his traces of African and Native American ancestry.
The motivation behind white nationalists wanting to explore their genetic histories is almost the complete opposite of why young Black Americans are testing their DNA. For the most part, there’s no paper trail for the descendants of enslaved Africans who were uprooted from their homeland and brought to America. So, genetic testing is the only means of gaining an understanding of where their ancestors came from.
When traces of European ancestry pop up in African-Americans, however, it can be assumed that the phenomena was the result of white slave owners who regularly assaulted and raped their enslaved females workers, resulting in the birth of children.
“There is something really weird, surreal, spiritually challenging about it,” Nikiah Washington, who discovered that 26 percent of her DNA is of British origin, told Fusion. “If a man did not rape that slave, I would not be here.”
For “eagleshigh,” his white ancestors may have been the aggressors in the supposed “rape” that resulted in his African and Native American ancestry, the Fusion piece suggests.
But according to Kasia Bryc, a population geneticist for 23andMe, it’s not uncommon for those with predominately European blood to have traces of ancestry from other parts of the world.
“As much as 10 percent of European-Americans from the South carry small levels of African ancestry, a few percent,” Bryc told Vice, based on results from the company’s study on 160,000 of its customers.
The study also found that white Americans living in states with predominately African-American populations were more likely to have traces of African DNA, specifically from West Africa.
“[This] is consistent with the historical slave trade,” Bryc said. “The correlation there is basically that people are mixing if they’re in the same area. And that’s sort of the story of humans in general.”
According to Vice, some online racists are taking their DNA results with a grain of salt. Those getting results with mixed ancestries suspect that 23andMe is trolling them by doctoring results that show traces of African DNA. By linking people’s ancestry to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, conspiracy theorists suggest that the company is trying to promote diversity in its own twisted way.
“Have you guys ever thought these test results to be fabricated?,” wrote one user on 4chan in September. “Like any pure Aryan person can have their information tampered to make it so they believe that their DNA carriers that of other races? What if they’re tricking people into self loathing and in a way making them more inclusive?”
Another user accused the company of finding DNA common among all humans and automatically “assigning it as Black.”
Andy Kill, a media relations rep for 23andMe, has since refuted the claims, stating, “We can unequivocally deny that. 100 percent.”