Science May Enable Reparations

Reviewing a Book Review

beaconlogoA few days ago, I got an email from a friend who has become a leader in the field of researching African American family histories, up to and beyond the “brick walls” of slave lists that do not give names and the unwritten records of births, deaths and marriages. This email contained a link to something published by Beacon Press in “Beacon Broadside.”

With this double endorsement, I immediately clicked through.

alondranelsonWhat I found was Sharon Morgan’s review of Alondra Nelson‘s new book,  The Social Life of DNAfull of tantalizing information and pieces of Ms. Morgan’s own family research story. I learned that besides the documentary investigations she does so well online and in county courthouses, Sharon has long been researching DNA connections to her family’s roots in Africa. From Sharon’s overview of points in Ms. Nelsosociallifeofdnan’s book, I learned about an exciting and compelling new application of DNA research. The Social Life of DNA includes a discussion of how DNA profiles can be applied to making successful reparations claims.

Without hesitation, I bought the book!

Read the review.  Then read the book. And finally, come back here and share your comments!


2 thoughts on “Science May Enable Reparations”

  1. I’ve not yet read Nelson’s book … and regret pivoting from collective conversation about the troubled history of race in America … but I was troubled by this observation in the review: “There is much to criticize about genetic ancestry testing companies, including a lack of transparency about their proprietary databases and the inability to verify or replicate results— a hallmark of scientific research.”

    When you subscribe to a print magazine, part of the publisher’s revenue stream arrives from re-selling their subscriber lists. You might want to consider this as relevant to profit streams and DNA databases. Genealogists might want to become familiar with familial DNA searching by police, for example.

    I share Morgan’s concern, “I continue to be paranoid about the possibilities of DNA being used,” but for different reasons. You have no idea what genetic markers will reveal in the future. When insurers or employers buy your DNA profile – even fifty years from now – they’ll have means to exclude from opportunity those with genetic predisposition to medical conditions, or capacity predictors, of which we are not currently aware. Your descendants stand vulnerable.

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