Blog Post: Genetics

I think I mentioned before that my son would refer to everyone as either ‘black’ or ‘white’. This used to simply refer to a person’s skin color. However someone went and taught him recently that ‘black’ only refers to Africans. So now it’s Africans are ‘blacks’ and everyone else are ‘whites’. This is very problematic. First of all I think race is a load of human constructed garbage. Second I can’t teach him that people are ‘reds’ or ‘yellows’ and while I understand it’s socially acceptable, I still don't feel great using the term ‘black’ unless it’s in the context of racism and discrimination. However ever people do look different and there are some major genetic groups. So after much mulling, I’ve started teaching him ‘African’, ‘Asian’, ‘Scandinavian’ and ‘Multi-Regional.’ I understand there might be some people from India who would object to be lumped in the Multi-Regional category, but, come on, if you had a room with a dozen Middle Easterners and a dozen mixed heritage kids you’d be hard put to even be 80% accurate, whereas if you had a room with a bunch of Western Europeans, Eastern Asians and Central Africans you’d have no trouble sorting them. The Middle East is at the cross roads of all three continents and thus major genetic groups, so Multi-Regional! I debated Scandinavian vs. Indigenous, but who’s indigenous varies on where you’re standing at the moment. Why not European? Because pretty much every European person he interacts with here is at least half Danish, so I figure better specificity is good. Even Scandinavians are a distinct genetic group and when he eventually sees more Europeans we can talk about those markers the same as how West and East Africans are different or South and East Asians etc.

In the course of all of this I came to a fascinating realization: my son thinks he’s Asian. He will consistently point to pictures of Asian children and say “that’s me!”. If you ask him his sister’s hair color he’ll say brown, but despite the fact that his is a few shades lighter, he calls his black, “like Mommy’s.” I am at most an 8th Mongolian, probably more like a 16th and I just got all the Asian genes expressed in my make-up. My son does have my half moon single lidded eyes and while mine are brown, his are jet black, like mine his skin turns gold in the hotter months and he does have my broad Asiatic face, but that’s about it. His dishwater blonde tresses are most definitely not straight. His lips are thin. His little nose looks like it will be hawkish like his dad’s and start above the eyes instead of below as is typical of Asian people. He has a slight cleft chin and while Asians tend to be slim, he is stocky enough to throw of the BMI with his wide frame.

I remember listening to a The Moth podcast episode about this poor Middle Eastern girl who had a traumatic experience at school. They were doing cray-pas self portraits and the teacher told her she couldn’t use the peach oil pastel like all the other kids. Instead she insisted the girl use something brown and since there were no brown cray-pas, had her use a horrible crayon. It was humiliating, ostracizing and stupid. What did it matter if this little girl self identified as having peach colored skin like her classmates? So I’m not going to correct my son. He will grow older. He’ll look in the mirror more and he’ll realize he isn’t Asian. On the other hand, the beauty of being a Multi-Regional kid is that he’s a little bit of everything and growing up in a country where a quarter of his classmates fit into this category means he has a whole lot of company!