Friday, September 30, 2011

I am descended from Confucius

Yes, me. No, this is not a pun, a metaphor, or a figurative truism. It is the truth. At least, according to this man's description of population genetics plus statistics, it is.

In other videos, he explains how race is not a genetic trait. I've come across this point in several other sources, too. Genetic traits are inherited individually, and race is a sweeping social construct that comprises a package deal of physical traits. It's easy to say that people with similar characteristics from a certain place constitute a race, but if you mix those people in with other populations, race is the first thing to disappear from their descendants.

That's why people invent things like the "drop of blood" rule - if there's any African ancestry in you at all, then you have a drop of African blood, and the privileged light-skinned people may oppress you with impunity.

Except, well, we're all Africans. We're all Asians and we're all descended from Caesar.

I already knew I was descended from Caesar, actually, but I'm glad to learn that my son is, too, and that I am descended from Confucius. Now, Caesar probably appears in my family tree a bazillion times, and Confucius most certainly appears in Cloud's tree a bazillion times. That's what being Han Chinese, in his case, or Italian in my case, is all about. And of course I knew that his tree and mine converge somewhere, that we had a Most Recent Common Ancestor a long time ago.

It wasn't that long ago, though, apparently. 550-1000 BCE... that was like yesterday in biological time! I'd been thinking something like 30,000 BCE.

But actually, the way humans move around so much, that now seems unlikely. 32,000 years is something like 1200 generations. Which would still make us fairly closely related... but that would only make sense if humans only moved outward and never moved back. They absolutely do move back. And forth and back and up and down and all around.

I've been pondering how to explain race to my son ever since adoption first came up as a possibility. If my explanation evolves... if it's more scientifically current and accurate than the one recommended to us by the experts... then, yay. I'm for that.

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