April 12, 2006

More fun with genetic genealogy tests

The NYT reports:

Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights.

One Christian is using the test to claim Jewish genetic ancestry and to demand Israeli citizenship, and Americans of every shade are staking a DNA claim to Indian scholarships, health services and casino money...

"If someone appears to be white and then finds out they are not, they haven't experienced the kinds of things that affirmative action is supposed to remedy," said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for student affairs at the University of Michigan, which won the right to use race as a factor in admissions in a 2003 Supreme Court decision.

Still, Michigan, like most other universities, relies on how students choose to describe themselves on admissions applications when assigning racial preferences...

Other slave descendants, known as the Freedmen, see DNA as bolstering their demand to be reinstated as members of the Indian tribes that once owned their ancestors. Under a treaty with the United States, the "Five Civilized Tribes" — Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees — freed their African slaves and in most cases made them citizens in the mid-1800's. More recently, the tribes have sought to exclude the slaves' descendants, depriving them of health benefits and other services.

At a meeting in South Coffeyville, Okla., last month, members of the Freedmen argued that DNA results revealing their Indian ancestry underscore the racism of the tribe's position that their ancestors were never true Indians.

"Here's this DNA test that says yes, these people can establish some degree of Indian blood," said Marilyn Vann, a Cherokee Freedwoman who is suing for tribal citizenship in federal court. "It's important to combat those who want to oppress people of African descent in their own tribe."

As the assets of some tribes have swelled in the wake of the 1988 federal law allowing them to build casinos, there has been no shortage of petitioners stepping forward to assert their right to citizenship and a share of the wealth. Now, many of them are wielding genetic ancestry tests to bolster their claim.

Israeli authorities have so far denied John Haedrich what he calls his genetic birthright to citizenship without converting to Judaism. Under Israel's "law of return," only Jews may immigrate to Israel without special dispensation.

Mr. Haedrich, a nursing home director who was raised a Christian, found through a DNA ancestry test that he bears a genetic signature commonly found among Jews. He says his European ancestors may have hidden their faith for fear of persecution.

Rabbis, too, have disavowed the claim: "DNA, schmeeNA," Mr. Haedrich, 44, said the rabbi at a local synagogue in Los Angeles told him when he called to discuss it.

Undeterred, Mr. Haedrich has hired a lawyer to sue the Israeli government. As in America, he argues, DNA is widely accepted as evidence in forensics and paternity cases, so why not immigration?

"Because I was raised a gentile does not change the fact that I am," Mr. Haedrich wrote in a full-page advertisement in The Jerusalem Post, "a Jew by birth."

To the best of my knowledge, however, it's hard for a typical white American to get away with this kind of thing.

Indian tribes have quite strict rules for determining membership based on traditional genealogical methodologies. Typically, you need to prove that you are at least 1/4th descended from that tribe. That's because many of the benefits that accrue to tribes are finite -- e.g., they get a single casino -- so they hate to let more people in because that just means each tribe member's slice of the pie is smaller. It's common for small tribes with lucrative casinos to hold "membership drives" where they drive out a lot of members as being insufficiently racially pure.

In contrast, black and Hispanic affirmative action benefits are not finite -- they are based on the size of the black or Hispanic population -- so racial activists are always trying to expand the government's depiction of the black or Hispanic populations. For instance, when the Census Bureau introduced the "multiracial" category for the 2000 Census, the Clinton Administration ruled that all multiracials would count toward full membership in whatever nonwhite ancestry they declared. In other words, if somebody indicates on the Census form that he is black and white, he counts as 100% black, not white or 50-50, for the purpose of determining how big the quota or "goal" should be.

Sometimes Sephardic Jews, like Liberman Broadcasting, qualify as Hispanics, but it takes a lot of chutzpah for most whites to pull it off.

Many assume that the whole system of affirmative action will collapse under these kind of contradictions. I tended to believe that in the past -- see this 1991 op-ed by my on the illogicalities of the quota system -- but, 15 years later, the now 37 year old affirmative action regime appears well entrenched, and unlikely to be allowed to fall apart just because it doesn't make much sense. Too much money and power is at stake for little things like logic to get in the way.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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