Notable, Race

Two recent articles of interest:

First, one about a black man” who discovered that his DNA didn’t contain any of the traits usually associated with Africans. (That’s how I would put it, in contrast to the article, since we all have African DNA.):

Joseph was 57 percent Indo-European, 39 percent Native American, 4 percent East Asian – and zero percent African. After a lifetime of assuming blackness, he was now being told that he lacked even a single drop of black blood to qualify.

Secondly, another article which shows that a large number of Ashkenazi Jews have DNA associated with Central Asia, rather than the Middle East:

They say that 52 percent of Levites of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it is also found less frequently in the Middle East. The ancestor who introduced it into the Ashkenazi Levites could perhaps have been from the Khazars, a Turkic tribe whose king converted to Judaism in the eighth or ninth century, the researchers suggest. Their reasoning is that the signature, a set of DNA variations known as R1a1, is common in the region north of Georgia that was once occupied by the Khazar kingdom. The signature did reach the Near East, probably before the founding of the Jewish community, but it is still rare there.

Both of these articles highlight the difference between biology and race. Race is a political, social, and cultural concept. Not a scientific one (at least applied to humans). Read this 1996 statement from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists for a very clear statement about how race is thought to apply to humans. It is particularly interesting that in both the case of the individual named Joseph, who thought he was black, and the Jews who thought they were descended from someone named Levi, their racial identity was very politically motivated. In Joseph’s case, it was a decision his grandparents had made:

After recovering from the initial shock, Joseph began questioning his mother about their lineage. He discovered that, unbeknownst to him, his grandparents had made a conscious decision back in Louisiana to not be white, claiming they didn’t want to side with a people who were known oppressors.

(Although read the article to see a second, less altruistic, motivation.) In the case of the Levites, their Central Asian DNA, is most likely do to with the mass conversion of a Central Asian kingdom in the 9th century:

Remarkably, the Khazars, a people of Turkic origin, converted to the Jewish religion sometime in the 9th century, beginning with the royal house and spreading gradually among the general populace

More information about the Khazars can be found at