White supremacists of various sorts, according to the leftist website Fusion, are seeking to use genetic testing to prove their white European ancestry. Entitled, "Online racists use DNA tests to prove their whiteness," writer Ethan Chiel starts out with: "That racists are obsessed by race will surprise no one." However, they do not constitute the only demographic seeking to get a glimpse into their genetic history. Services such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe offer to provide the results of DNA sampling that can give insights into their customers’ ancestry. Black Americans are seeking to do analogous sampling so as to trace their family lineage back to Africa.
In the article on Fusion by Ethan Chiel, black Americans resort to genetic testing because documentation of their ancestry directly to Africa is spotty or nonexistent. Ethan Chiel writes at Fusion that for testers of African descent, “evidence of European ancestry that dates to the 1700s and 1800s can be traumatic, the proof in their DNA that their enslaved ancestors were likely raped by the people who bought and sold them.”
Various American Indian tribes are using genetic testing, too.
Rape and racism
Quoting an article at Vice.com, Chiel noted the reflections of a black woman on discovering that she had more European ancestry than she had imagined. After receiving her DNA results from Ancestry.com, the woman wrote on Facebook: “The fact that I am only African and European, is really emotional for me,” and added, “I just kinda feel like my ancestors were brought over here as slaves and then raped. I’m not being very eloquent, this is kind of a lot.”
“There is something really weird, surreal, spiritually challenging about it. If a man did not rape that slave, I would not be here,” she wrote later.
Chiel wrote, “For her, the discovery that a rape may explain part of her genetic makeup is a cause for horror, an impetus for thinking about an ancestor who was enslaved and raped and another who was a rapist.” He added that for “white supremacist posters on alt-right forums, rape isn’t a horrific crime so much as it’s instrumental...The act of rape is subsumed as just another part of the posters’ particular conception of whiteness. Citing commenters on sites such as 4chan, Chiel said that they are not unusual in the “alt-right.” “They’re a dark, brutally honest look at how many on the American right think of sexual violence. For them rape isn’t a horrific action, it’s a means of control.”
Tribal enrollment is the means by which applicants can claim that they belong to a particular American Indian tribe or nation. Once enrolled, American Indians can claim benefits from their particular tribe and from the federal government. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it is a myth that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) each receive a monthly federal benefit check.
“Judgment Funds” are paid by the federal government to settle claims made by American Indian and Alaska Native groups. The BIA says that while “tribes and individual tribal members and their lineal descendants have received Federal payments in the past, such payments have been made under specific responsibilities of the Federal government to them that have resulted from treaty obligations…” and the settlement of claims against the United States, and/or the collection of payments for the use or exploitation of their trust lands and natural resources.
“However," writes the BIA, "very few judgment fund per capita payments remain to be paid today (and not every settlement allows per capita payments), and trust monies are collected by the Federal government and paid out only to those tribes and individuals to whom they belong.”
Apart from any disbursement from the federal government, tribes make distributions to members and tribal governments from businesses such as gambling casinos that are allowed only to American Indian and Alaska Native groups. Members of the American Indian and Alaska Native tribes can access healthcare and other benefits.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, taxpayer-funded services to these groups are multiple: “Indian Affairs-funded or administered programs, which are comparable to state and local government programs and services, include education, economic and workforce development, social services, justice (law enforcement, corrections, and courts), infrastructure (road, bridges, and dams), housing, realty, agriculture and range management, and natural resources management and protection. They operate on federal Indian reservations and tribal trust lands for the benefit of tribal members, and on trust or restricted-fee lands belonging to individual Indian landowners.”
No American Indian or Alaska Native group accepts results of DNA testing as the sole proof of tribal identity. Some tribes accept DNA results, however, as additional proof of membership. In a controversial move by some AI/AN nations, DNA is being used to actually disenroll members.
This was the case in Cherokee Nation v. Raymond Nash, in which members of the Cherokee Nation fought to disenroll descendants of black Cherokee Freedmen. Cherokee Freedmen are descendants of blacks who were enslaved by the Cherokee. The Cherokee were counted among the so-called Civilized Tribes that kept black slaves. Following the Civil War, in which Cherokee fought on the side of the Confederacy, Cherokee Freedmen were given Cherokee citizenship. Other American Indian tribes that enslaved blacks were the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and the Seminole. Each of these tribes and their slaves were victims of the dreaded Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Many of them wound up in Oklahoma where some of them became known as “black” Seminoles.
Those seeking to determine the percentage of their American Indian ancestry, can go to the American Indian and Alaska Native Genetic Resource Site for further information.