Fear of a black past

By Razib Khan | May 25, 2012 10:35 pm

I notice that the media has started reporting that scientific genealogy has now established to a great extent the likely origin of the Melungeons. You can find the original paper online. The gist is that the Melungeons seem to exhibit a large proportion of Sub-Saharan African origin Y chromosomal lineages, and European mtDNA lineages. The lack of Amerindian ancestry in the generality is also notable. But, this does not entail that the origins of the Melungeons is from the union of free black males and white women necessarily, at least on purely genetic grounds (the paper itself has a wealth of genealogical evidence pointing to this likelihood). The Melungeons are an endogamous community, and so have a low effective population. African or Amerindian mtDNA lineages may simply have been lost by chance over the past few hundred years.

But I point to the story of the Melungeons because it is a nice counter-point to that of the Hispanos of the Southwest. This is a case where historians and anthropologists who made the case for the false construction of a mythical Middle Eastern ancestry for the Melungeons as a way in which to escape the bounds of the American racial caste system were correct. In contrast, this model was not totally supported for the Hispanos, who do seem to have some grounds to argue for genuine connection to Jewishness. In other words, genetic evidence is an important complement to other methodologies.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Race
MORE ABOUT: Melungeon
  • S.J. Esposito

    This semester I was made–against my will–to take a course in cultural anthro, in which we frequently discussed the Ainu people of the northern Japanese territories. It was insisted that these people are more closely related to Europeans than to other Asians. I found out that this was the prevailing opinion for a long while, but genetics has revealed otherwise recently. I frequently brought this up and was disregarded in ways that basically amounted to genetics having little meaning in a culture class simply because the way culture perceive otherness is important and not the actual truth about such otherness.

    I obviously disagree with this whole-heartedly, but I think it speaks to the fact that many ideologically-driven academics–i.e., cultural anthropologists–don’t seem to give a crap about genetics at all. Unfortunate, really… for them.

  • http://DiscoverMagazine. Light Westwood

    Being of African origin is nothing to be ashamed of. In many ways certain African groups and their descendants have been bastardized culturally, this is a historical fact. Even so, many educators, doctors, lawyers, scientists,surgeons, athletes, musicians etc,etc., have these as their genetic progenitors and wear the social battle scars with love and pride. What is there to “fear” in having black ancestral contributors to an individuals gene pool. Be thankful for the life you were given. Don’t let someone who comes from a lighter skinned race make you de-value your own humanity. The “father of the internet” is Nigerian, he was born and raised there for much of his life. Mr. Phillip Emeagwali is the researcher who developed the method by which computer databases exchange information. According to the internet( from several sources), he has an I.Q.of aprox.201, only second to a gentleman from Korea. We all descend from Africa, as it has been proven to be the genetic cradle of civilization. Just because a large group of people have been abused and vilified for centuries, don’t mean that they are guilty of the sum total of venom lobbed by their detractors. Melungeon descendants, God blessed you, you have survived, let there be no shame in your self valuation. Your people have been hard-working and self-sufficient and you have excelled as a group to the limit that your environmental neighbors would allow, socially. Rejoice! “The Meek shall inherit the Earth”.

  • B.B.

    Light Westwood Says:
    The “father of the internet” is Nigerian, he was born and raised there for much of his life. Mr. Phillip Emeagwali is the researcher who developed the method by which computer databases exchange information. According to the internet( from several sources), he has an I.Q.of aprox.201, only second to a gentleman from Korea.

    The achievements of Philip Emeagwali have been greatly exaggerated.

  • http://Discovermagazine. Light Westwood

    I attended the University of Michigan at the same time as Mr. Emeagwali and I was a neighbor of his. He was always in the research facility and his( then) pregnant wife Dale, as well. They were very hardworking and studious. I have read the reports of his detractors. There are many people who have been hurt for political reasons at powerful universities. There was and perhaps still is a very strong anti-affirmative action sentiment amongst some of the faculty and staff there Mr. Emeagwali is a very humble, kind, intelligent human being. His I.Q. score still speaks for itself and I personally can attest to his work ethic, often going on five hours or less of sleep while worrying about a delicate pregnancy and successfully undertaking his research assignments. Despite what anyone says, I was there, he is quite a man, one to be respected. They are quite a couple and no one can take that away. They wouldn’t remember me, he certainly wouldn’t, if my name was given..even perhaps if he saw my face. I was more of a neighborly friend to her. They didn’t drink or party, respected and valued their marriage highly and contributed positively to society. What have you done?, other than to disparage people you don’t know and couldn’t hope to excel above the achievements of, on a public forum.

  • Onur

    Philip Emeagwali is a charlatan who deceives gullible minds like Light Westwood into beleiving that he is the inventor of the Internet and the Connection Machine, holder of many patented inventions (in truth, he has none), a Nobel Prize winner, a professor and a doctor and many other of his bogus claims. In the community of science and technology he is a nobody. He is certainly not a person to be envied.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    Read a book or two on the topic many years ago. These people were over mountain by the time of the first settlements. It looks like they got there first. Way back when it was known that many had a dash of native American and others a dash of most likely escaped slave blood. A family had an odd mutation that caused some members to appear bluish that only showed up due to inbreeding. That didn’t change the observation that when you checked the evidence the founders looked southern European/Moorish.

    It was also worth noting that a large number of Moors got dumped on the coast by some free booter, Maybe Drake. Been a while sense I read the book. Others may have been people fleeing the Spanish Government in Florida. Don’t count on a few genetic tests clearing up the past at least not unless they are done on the bodies of people who died in the late 1600s and 1700s. As outcasts these people did mix with other outcasts but many later simply moved out of the mountains and vanished into the general population which allowed them to escape discrimination. The author of the book I read came from such a family that had moved to a major urban area and blended in.

    There is a photo of the rather short young woman who was the subject of a court case when her children claimed their inheritance from her steam boat captain husband and the children of his first wife objected. She had very thick hair to her feet at which point she apparently cut it. Very attractive and as was noted nothing to suggest her ancestors came from sub Saharan Africa. A group of total raciest gave them their stamp of approval. They weren’t sure what she was but they agreed she was some sort of ‘white’ even if rather dark complexioned.

    The failure to detect evidence of crossing with native Americans is a sign these people had a _major_ fail whale as far as running down the family tree is concerned. Their genes may not show up in the studied populations but virtually _nobody_ ever denied that such people were in the family tree just as they are in the family tree of the local Bivens and Howell families and many of their relatives. No point in claiming to be Native American because the genes got very thoroughly diluted.

    The other point that should not be overlooked is that a lot of Melungeons joined the general population as whites. I didn’t read jack that suggested these people thought anything about marrying non Melungeons.

    I’m not questioning the results of the genetic study. I’m saying it can only tell you a limited amount about the the Ancestors of the historical Melungeons.

  • http://DiscoverMagazine Light Westwood

    I was at The University of Michigan with Mr. Emeagwali for three years, as his neighbor and fellow student. I saw his daily goings and comings, and the sacrifices that he and his wife made for his untiring work, for which he has not been properly recognized. I am not suggesting that he should be envied, I do admire him as a human being, productive citizen, husband, and father.

  • Onur

    I was at The University of Michigan with Mr. Emeagwali for three years, as his neighbor and fellow student. I saw his daily goings and comings, and the sacrifices that he and his wife made for his untiring work, for which he has not been properly recognized. I am not suggesting that he should be envied, I do admire him as a human being, productive citizen, husband, and father.

    These in no way prove any of his claims about himself. His fraud has been totally exposed.

  • http://DiscoverMagazine light westwood

    Mr. Onur,

    It would be fascinating to observe the sum total of your accomplishments….what have you done that qualifies you to be the judge and jury, part the sea? Mr. Emeagwali should fight the ruling all the way to the supreme court, or become part of a class action law suit against the U.of M. for similar grievances. Your venom, heavy breathing and copious salivation added to a million more like you, doesn’t make you right. I do concede this, it is obviously very important to you to prove the inferiority and fraudulence of someone whom you clearly despise, yet have never met. Is it empty, in there?

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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