The dawning of the age of genetic ancestry tests (GAT) such as 23andme and Ancestry.com seemed as though they would be an inadvertent boon to white supremacists, a way to resurrect a long history of “scientific racism” or illegitimate attempts to prove racial superiority through one or more scientific fields, long considered pseudoscience by actual scientists.
White supremacists espouse a dangerous and foolish ideology that says that “pure” descendants of white Europeans are superior to other races, and that they must somehow recreate a white nation state at the expense of people of color, and those of the Jewish faith, among others. The recent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which turned violent for many, and fatal for Heather Heyer, showed that these groups are as committed as ever to their vision of terror.
The advent of these genetic tests found many a white supremacist rushing off to prove their genes “white,” only to learn that they are not as white as they may have thought. Take the case of white supremacist Craig Cobb, who has spent the better part of the last twelve years establishing himself as a leading voice of hate, racism, and terror. He has made national news several times, particularly when he was charged with terrorizing people with guns while trying to create “an all-white enclave” in Leith, North Dakota, according to STAT news.
Cobb later appeared on The Trisha Goddard Show in 2013 after taking a DNA test, agreeing to share the results with a live studio audience. His results: “86 percent European and…14 percent Sub-Saharan African.”
The audience roared with punishing laughter and the Trisha Goddard herself couldn’t resist saying, “Sweetheart, you have a little black in you.”
Cobb, naturally, took it like a white supremacist. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, just wait a minute,” he said. “This is called statistical noise.” Cobb then hurried over to the website Stormfront to argue about the results, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Stormfront is a white nationalist website launched in the 1990s by Don Black, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and is what writer Eric Boodman of STAT calls “a kind of deep archive of online hate.”
While it’s easy to feel a heady brew of schadenfreude at Cobb’s discomfort, Cobb’s response, and others like him, reveal not only that white supremacists will twist the truth in their own favor no matter how hard the science, but they raise some questions about the dark side of genetic tests as measures to “prove” racial identity.
Cobb’s reaction is typical among white supremacists who don’t receive the results they want, according to sociologists out of UCLA who recently revealed the results of a new study on the matter at a sociology conference in Montreal. Co-lead authors Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan culled through the more than 12 million posts by more than 300,000 Stormfront members to see how white supremacists took the news that they were not 100% white. Search terms included “DNA test, “23andMe,” “haplotype” and “National Geographic” among others. Their research team then narrowed this down to 70 discussion threads, 3000 posts, by 153 users. Panofsky found it surprising that white supremacists would even admit to their less than 100% white results online at all given that “they will basically say if you want to be a member of Stormfront you have to be 100 percent white European, not Jewish,” but many of them do. Perhaps with the awareness that the community will shore up behind them one way or another.
In most cases (though not all), those whose results came up less than 100% white were not rejected outright, says co-lead author Joan Donovan, but rather they cast aspersions and doubt on the science of the tests themselves.
“They will talk about the mirror test,” said Panofsky. “They will say things like, ‘If you see a Jew in the mirror looking back at you, that’s a problem; if you don’t you’re fine.’” Not only does this reinforce the negative stereotype that Jews all look a certain way, it leaves an awful lot of gray area for their so-called white purity tests, suggesting that perhaps their real agenda is hatred.
Other commenters belied their own purity tests by suggesting that a little bit of non-white genetics don’t matter so long as one committed to being a white nationalist. Not surprisingly, others called the tests part of a Jewish conspiracy “that is trying to confuse true white Americans about their ancestry,” Panofsky said.
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