Let's Give Out Genetic Testing Kits at the Next Neo-Nazi Rally

Destroying the idea of racial purity one tiki torcher at a time


Here's a free idea, internet friends: In order to further reduce the already tiny number of actual white supremacists in our midst, let's start a volunteer effort to distribute free genetic tests to anyone who shows up at a rally with any kind of sign, badge, flag, or insignia that indicates he thinks whites are a superior race.

Take a bunch 23andMe or testing kits down to the site of the next Charlottesville-style rally and set up a table. Make it a challenge: spit in a test tube and get proof of your white superiority. Family tree research is already a popular activity in the community, why not help them along with some objective data?

The payoff, of course, is when a decent number of folks whose sense of self (and extracurricular activities) revolve around racial purity discover their own mongrelcy. And if even a few neo-Nazis discover that their great-great-great-grandmothers were Jewish, it will all have been worth it, right?

A large number of genetic test takers discover ethnic elements in their heritage they didn't expect, and depending on how stringent your definition of "white" is—plently of marchers would certainly exclude the charming yet swarthy Nick Gillespie from their number, for instance—quite a few swastika wavers could be in for a surprise.

Reason's own Charlottesville correspondent Ronald Bailey can vouch for the power of genetic testing in reshaping one's view about oneself. In fact, he did so at length in his article "I'll Show You My Genome. Will You Show Me Yours?" about the results of his early foray into genetic testing. He was hoping for more racial diversity in his background, not less, but a rumored Cherokee princess did not materialize.

It could be funded through a Kickstarter. Or perhaps one of the genetic testing companies could volunteer to give away the kits or sell them at cost. In a moment when we are furiously debating whether it's appropriate for hot dog shop owners to dating sites to web hosting companies to give white nationalists the boot, why not flip things and around and give away a cool product to Charlottesville protester-types for free?

There are some barriers to this hare-brained scheme, to be sure, including the problem that a dude carrying a swastika might not be keen to give anyone his names and addresses.

Pacific Press/Sipa USA/Newscom

And being presented with data is not the same as incorporating new facts. STAT News had a great writeup earlier this week of what happens when white supremacists get genetic testing done, derived from a presentation of an academic paper by sociologists Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan that coincidentally happened just 48 hours after the violence in Charlottesville. The team culled posts from Stormfront, a white nationalist site, and analyzed how users reacted when the got their results.

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. 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.

The researchers found that some aspiring members were excluded from Stormfront as a result of impure genetics, so that's a win right there.

Moreover: this is long con, people. Of course the vast majority of white supremacists will double-down; if they're already willing to be bear the social costs of being a darn Nazi in public, they're already pretty deep in it. The goal is to seed uncertainty that festers, niggling at the back of people's minds as they holler about white pride, slowly turning arrogance into doubt. The more time neo-Nazis spend looking in the mirror for lurking Jewish traits, the less time they spend in my Twitter feed.

For an added upside: if the correct permissions are obtained, all participants can be added to Harvard's Personal Genome Project to increase scientists' stock of (anonymized) data about race and other traits, generating a broader social good out of the next gathering.

Boom. I'm basically Elon Musk, but for racial harmony.