Genetic Diversity within Today’s African American Population,
by Howard Ray White, the Society of Independent Southern Historians
Today we Americans often think of our African American population as being a race of people. But it takes little thought and observation to recognize that African Americans are not a pure race descended from African people, but a mixed race descended from diverse mixtures of ancestry from three major races: African, European and Native American. Recent analysis of genetic data of customers of 23andMe, a popular genetic testing service, paints a picture of the diversity of the racial ancestors of people who self-identify themselves as African American. The genetic data of 5,269 self-described African Americans, after sophisticated computer analysis, presents the following racial make-up of that population.
Recasting a summation:
These data of genetic inheritance among African Americans is in general agreement with other studies I have seen.
The difficulty in thinking of African Americans as a uniform race impacts public policy concerning that portion of our population. When 2 percent of people self-identified as African Americas show no significant genetic evidence (1/48 to zero black) of being descended from that race; when 7 percent of people self-identified as African Americans are genetically less than half of that race, we appear to be giving advantages in college opportunities to the most capable 7 percent without adequate consideration of the needs in preparing the majority 91 percent for successful adult careers. Not everybody needs to go to college, and a degree is not an easy ticket to a good job. That reality is important to all Americans, not just a certain part of our population. But it is particularly important in seeking good outcomes among African Americans in today’s society. The focus on college preparation in American schools does a disservice to the African American students who constitute the genetic-majority-African 91 percent.
Howard Ray White, for the Society of Independent Southern Historians