White nationalists are interested in genetic ancestry tests, the Atlantic reports, raising concerns about how such tests could be interpreted.
Jedidiah Carlson, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, stumbled upon a genetic ancestry discussion board at the white nationalist site Stormfront while searching for something else, he tells the Atlantic. He became concerned and started to tweet about what he'd found there, such as white nationalists who want people to return to where they are "originally" from.
"In light of the current political climate," Carlson says, "I think there's a much more present danger for our scientific work to become weaponized to enact these ethno-nationalist policies."
This isn't a new concern for genetic research, the Atlantic notes, as eugenics has been used in the past to rationalize racist policies. But now, it says, genetic ancestry testing could be used to reinforce the idea that there are differences between races, despite other genetic studies that have found that people are 99.9 percent the same at the genomic level.
The Atlantic points out that ancestry testing only gives a glimpse into a small window of the past. "Go back too far, of course, and everyone is African," it says. "Go back not far enough and populations are already too scrambled by immigration and colonization."
Still, it adds that while white nationalists have extreme rhetoric regarding race, "the idea that race represents real biological differences is pervasive."