Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Places, Not Races

A University of Illinois at Chicago anthropologist writing in Slate argues that commercial genetic test reports related to ancestry may inadvertently reinforce outmoded notions about race, potentially giving test consumers "misleading fuel for potential harmful racial (and racist) beliefs."

Although humans have been geographically transient over time, for example, John Edward Terrell notes that such test results focus on small genetic differences that reflect relatively recent relationships.

And while individuals may be participating in commercial genotyping services in search of connection with other people, Terrell worries that misperceptions about ethnicity may produce the opposite effect.

"By encouraging us to see ourselves as a mix of allegedly different ethnic groups, populations, races, and the like rather than as a mix of genes," he writes, "commercial DNA tests may lend seeming scientific credence to ideas that by now ought to have been long dead and buried — enduring assumptions about human diversity that have ripped the world apart for far too long."