|Ann Dunham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
“What makes the John Punch case interesting is here is a guy who is definitely a slave,” said Professor Berlin, who did not participate in the examination of the president’s ancestors.
The Ancestry.com team used DNA analysis to make the connection, and it also combed through marriage and property records to trace Mr. Obama’s maternal ancestry to the time and place where Mr. Punch lived. The company said records suggested that Mr. Punch fathered children with a white woman, who passed her free status on to those children, giving rise to a family of a slightly different name, the Bunches, that ultimately spawned Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
The findings come as more and more Americans are discovering their own mixed-race heritage. Elizabeth Shown Mills, a former president of the American Society of Genealogists, said the Internet, coupled with the ease of DNA testing and heightened interest among both amateur and professional genealogists, was helping to reveal the extent of racial intermingling over the centuries.
“It is becoming increasingly common now because people are discovering it,” Ms. Mills said. “In the past, very few records were available. Very few people made the effort to do the research.”The piece then goes on to speak with President Obama's fifth cousin, twice removed Mark Bunch who considers himself a "Caucasian" whose "mixed roots go way back." Bunch "discovered" his African roots thanks to DNA testing.
DNA testing as a means of recovering identity is a very tricky business as Professor Dorothy Roberts explained to ITYC Radio when we spoke to her about her book Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century back in October. In recent years, the use of genetic testing to reveal a person's racial identity has served to inaccurately reinforce race as a biological reality. If you read closely, the Times piece reveals that the President's "mixed" ancestors took on the free status of their white mother and for all intents and purposes became white revealing that one's racial identity had more to do with politics and policy than genomes.
Utimately, it's a fascinating story not because it reveals Ann Dunham's "hidden" ancestry, but rather because it reveals the ways in which we continue to focus on all the wrong things when the mainstream media discusses race. (hat tip to The Root)