One way in which genetic testing is complicated for African Americans is due to the history of their ancestors. This can be seen in Prof. Alondra Nelson’s interview where she explains that African American ancestry is particularly complex, with many people having a mixture of African, European and Native American heritage, as well as the admixture from other sources due to historical events such as slavery or colonization. She notes that this complexity means that it can be difficult for individuals to trace their heritage accurately through genetic testing. Furthermore, because many African Americans have been subject to systemic racial discrimination throughout history and into present times, there are often considerable psychological and emotional implications associated with such tests.
The new research into genetics has forced us to reconsider our understanding of race as a social construct rather than a biological one; this goes against what was previously accepted by society at large and even medical practitioners. Although genetic differences among humans exist on some level (such as variations in eye color or hair texture), these do not necessarily correspond to traditional notions of ‘race’ used by societies today – meaning that genetics alone cannot determine someone’s ethnic identity or cultural belongingness (Nelson). This calls into question how useful genetic testing really is when it comes to uncovering information about an individual’s identity or ancestry; instead it might be better for them to look beyond the results provided by the test itself and think more critically about why they wish find out more about themselves in terms of ethnicity or race-related matters (Nelson).