A few months ago, I embarked on a special journey with momondo – a simple DNA test. As part of the travel search engine’s The DNA Journey campaign, thousands the world over have taken DNA tests to ascertain their heritage.
And whilst it is important to point out that one’s DNA results are based on a database of people that the company that conducts the tests, Ancestry DNA, has built up, there is a high degree of certainty that the results show are accurate.
Prior to taking the test, I imagined that my results would contain DNA strands from numerous African and European countries (I was born in Kenya, to a Kenyan father and a Danish mother). My results (shown at the bottom of this post), not only confirmed my expectations, they also revealed that 9% of my DNA hails from the Middle East. This was a surprise, albeit a welcome one, particularly at a time when the world is at loggerheads with The Middle East, its religious practices and ways of life. The term “mixed race,” which is the manner in which I choose to describe myself gained even more meaning, in a world that is still very linear in its depiction of culture.
Let me illustrate: popular media continues to describe Barack Obama as the first “black” president of the United States, yet I am sure that if he were to be described more objectively, for example with regard to his DNA, different, arguably more accurate terminology would be used. Then again, would it? Our world still fails to recognize the right of ethnic minorities to define themselves and countries the world over, staring with the “United” States of America are split along racial and ethnic lines.
More often than not, we are all described from the cultural relativism of the dominant hegemonic groups that rule the world, which, in our modern day consists primarily of fattened middle aged white men in suits. This hegemonic group is the very same clique of collaborators that refuses to pass legislation to curb weapon ownership. By and large it also keeps women, ethnic and sexual minorities out of its hegemonic influence.
This is a truth that saddens me, as a true citizen of the world. However, I believe that the world is moving forward and that the status quo is being challenged, every single day. Brands such as momondo, like United Colours of Benetton before them (see my essay on UCB’s advertising campaign and my take on why Benetton, not Coca Cola actually gives a damn about the world) are challenging the power balance each and every day with examples of purpose based marketing such as The DNA Journey (see below), and governments the world over, that continue to take strides in the right direction, on a legislative level at least. (well, maybe not in Putin’s Russia).
The true step towards bridging the gaps that divide us globally lies in a basic and fundamental recognition of the fact that our differences are source of all of our strengths. I believe that understanding how to embrace differences, cultural or otherwise, represents a genuine solution to addressing the challenges of the future.
Here are my DNA results in full:
Great Britain: 14%
Iberian Peninsula: 2 %
Western Europe < 1%
Finland / Northwest Russia: <1%
Africa Southeastern Bantu: 23%
North Africa: 3%
Cameroon / Congo: 3%
Central Africa: 2%
Benin / Togo: 2%
Middle Eastern: 9%