Thursday, March 11, 2010

Genetics and Iola Leroy

Faces of America is a show on PBS that demonstrates the new advances in genetic testing. A person’s heritage can be traced by using just a sample of their saliva. The show raises some interesting questions, some of which we have been discussing in our classes. Some of these are what makes a person’s culture? Is it where he/she is raised or how he/she is raised. One example was with Eva Longoria, a famous Latina actress who is very proud of her heritage. Before being shown her genetic makeup she was very confident that her “pie chart” would show her being seventy percent Mexican, twenty percent White, and Ten percent “other”. Her results revealed that she was indeed seventy percent white. This shocked her and when asked what she thought about the results she said that it sort of changes how she feels about her Mexican heritage. Even after being raised thinking she was a certain race, and identifying her whole life as one “type” of person she questioned her identity.
This reminded me of the “one drop” mentality in Iola Leroy. Although the racial discrimination has been removed from the majority of our society it still matters what group you identify with. Iola, like Miss Longoria, even after being raised to think, act, and identify with a group of people, in an instant of revelation questions identity. I am certain that if genetic testing existed during the days of the civil war it would have been used to marginalize people even more.
One interesting fact on people’s mentality is changed for the better is with those who did not discover any “ethnic” heritage. In Steven Colbert’s “pie chart” he was shown that he was one hundred percent “white man” and he was disappointed. He was hoping for some form of ethnic descent. This would not have been the case in the days of Iola Leroy, I am glad that time and equality has changed this fact.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you brought up this series, Lynette. I think it serves a purpose of complicating what we think we "know" about our ethnic identity--and what we think we know affects how we perceive ourselves, as Tom's case makes clear.