What’s a white supremacist to do when a DNA ancestry result shows a member to be less than ideal genetically “European”? Question the methodology or the results, or pretzel-logic your way to a point where one can consider themselves “white enough,” of course.
Apparently, this is what some white supremacists at the racist site Stormfront have been doing for years, according to a study conducted by researchers at UCLA and presented Monday in Montreal.
Researchers scoured the site, which was started by a white supremacist computer programmer in the early days of the internet, for certain phrases including, “DNA test,” “23&Me,” “halotype,” and even “National Geographic.” The site’s decades of archives provided researchers with over 3,000 individual posts across 70 discussion threads and included 153 unique users.
Here’s what the researchers found during their hundreds of hours of pouring over the threads:
About a third of the people posting their results were pleased with what they found. “Pretty damn pure blood,” said a user with the username Sloth. But the majority didn’t find themselves in that situation. Instead, the community often helped them reject the test, or argue with its results.
If straight up rejecting reality wasn’t good enough, individuals would take the Elizabeth Warren route, saying what they know about their family history and ancestry is more valid than science.
Some rejected the tests entirely, saying that an individual’s knowledge about his or her own genealogy is better than whatever a genetic test can reveal. “They will talk about the mirror test,” said Panofsky, who is a sociologist of science at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics. “They will say things like, ‘If you see a Jew in the mirror looking back at you, that’s a problem; if you don’t, you’re fine.’” Others, he said, responded to unwanted genetic results by saying that those kinds of tests don’t matter if you are truly committed to being a white nationalist. Yet others tried to discredit the genetic tests as a Jewish conspiracy “that is trying to confuse true white Americans about their ancestry,” Panofsky said.
But some took a more scientific angle in their critiques, calling into doubt the method by which these companies determine ancestry — specifically how companies pick those people whose genetic material will be considered the reference for a particular geographical group.
It is true that geneticists, anthropologists, and sociologists do quibble over the usefulness of these types of tests, because a result can vary depending on the set a sample is tested against. However, DNA test companies have set rules for how they conduct their tests and provide results. And in the same vein as a pregnancy test, the likelihood of a false negative on a DNA test is far more possible than that of a false positive.
The study results concluded the white supremacists decide on a case by case basis whether or not they can stay in the group or be ostracized based on what they’ve revealed about their genetic results.
For the study authors, what was most interesting was to watch this online community negotiating its own boundaries, rethinking who counts as “white.” That involved plenty of contradictions. They saw people excluded for their genetic test results, often in very nasty (and unquotable) ways, but that tended to happen for newer members of the anonymous online community, Panofsky said, and not so much for longtime, trusted members. Others were told that they could remain part of white nationalist groups, in spite of the ancestry they revealed, as long as they didn’t “mate,” or only had children with certain ethnic groups. Still others used these test results to put forth a twisted notion of diversity, one “that allows them to say, ‘No, we’re really diverse and we don’t need non-white people to have a diverse society,’” said Panofsky.
This is what happens when one places a crackpot, hate-based ideology above all else and defines inherent identity by it as well. One little test can throw an entire sense of self and worldview into devastation. Continuing to prove what we learned from WWII, that identifying by genetic makeup is wholly stupid.