I get Christopher Rufo spam

I’ll lead with the happy news: I survived another grueling Thursday coupled to my continuing Achilles tendon agony. But I did get through the whole day without puking (the pain is intense enough that when I have to hobble for any length of time, I get nauseous) and actually, the throbbing stabbing pain is starting to ease up, thanks to a heavy drug dose from my doctor yesterday. Hooray for not losing my stomach contents! Hooray for some easing of the pain!! Hooray for lots of good drugs!!! Gosh, I sure hope my lecture this morning was comprehensible.

But now I’m home, and I find spam from some crappy conservative liars, and my gorge begins to rise again.

Dear Friend,

You are not, and never will be, my friend.

Are you ready to become even more effective in the fight against radical curriculum in your schools?

Yes. Always have been. You know that the “radical curriculum” is the conservative/capitalist propaganda promoted by billionaires, right? I am so totally against that.

Since we started Breakthrough Ideas, this fight has been one of our main areas of focus.

No, I don’t think so. The founder of this organization is a failed Republican candidate for the US House from Illinois, whose campaign in 2020 was built around the idea of put[ting] in place the infrastructure to begin the pushback operation against the socialism that invaded the US House in 2018. She also ran, and failed, for governor of Illinois. I think her only idea is to build up Wingnuttia.

She seems to have founded this half-assed think-tank in 2020/2021, after she flopped everything else, in order to continue her grift. I have no idea who is funding it.

Now we are teaming up with nationally-renowned education and critical race theory expert Christopher Rufo to give you the information you need to influence your local school boards and push back on toxic ideologies.

Wait wait wait. nationally-renowned education and critical race theory expert? Hold your horses, lady. Rufo has zero qualifications in education. He doesn’t understand or is lying about CRT; he has none of the training or experience in law, philosophy, race relations, or history to have earned the title of “expert”. He’s a fraud through and through. Here’s his background from Wikipedia.

Rufo was previously a visiting fellow for domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation and a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute.[12][11] Later, he was a research fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Christian think tank known for its opposition to the theory of evolution and advocacy for intelligent design to be taught in public schools.[11][13][14] In 2017, Rufo was a plaintiff in a lawsuit to prevent Seattle from imposing a 2.25% income tax on sums above $250,000 a year for individuals and over $500,000 for couples.[15] In 2018, he unsuccessfully ran for the Seattle City Council.[16] Rufo voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election.[5]

Yeah, he’s just another right-wing grifter oozing out of the woodwork of a series of think-tanks. Not an expert in anything but profitable parasitism.

Oh, the best part: the bill.

Check out Christopher Rufo’s video invitation here!

You can listen to Rufo on Zoom for an hour for the low, low price of $25, which is a bit over-priced. Or you can listen to him in person if you’re willing to fork over $50 and travel to some random wedding venue in Illinois (there is a McDonald’s next door), and for a lousy $250 you can attend the VIP Q&A session for a half hour.

Jesus. Unqualified hack gets those kinds of ticket prices for just lying out of his ass. I’m such a failure, I should have made up more shit to get on the right-wing rubber chicken circuit and the no doubt substantial speaking fees. On the plus side, I won’t get publicly disemboweled for my ignorance on national TV.

“Help, help, I’m being silenced!” says professor in opinion piece in Newsweek and MIT guest lecture

Healthy young white person who is quite convinced that the world is conspiring against him

I am really disgusted with these privileged POS’s who complain about diversity. Here’s another one, Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago.

Dorian S. Abbot, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, is speaking out against the cancellation of a lecture he was scheduled to give later this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He says he’s being punished for his views on higher education’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which he’s referred to as a top-down “regime.”

“I view this episode as an example as well as a striking illustration of the threat woke ideology poses to our culture, our institutions and to our freedoms,” Abbot wrote in a guest post for former New York Times writer Bari Weiss’s Substack newsletter, which is becoming a go-to venue for professors who feel they’ve been wronged by the academic left. “I have consistently maintained that woke ideology is essentially totalitarian in nature: it attempts to corral the entirety of human existence into one narrow ideological viewpoint and to silence anyone who disagrees.”

He’s a tenured professor of geophysics at a prestigious university. I have a little exam for him.

  • Define “woke ideology” and explain how it is totalitarian. For that matter, define “totalitarian”.
  • If I accept the claim that it is a “narrow ideological viewpoint”, explain what your ideological viewpoint is that conflicts with it. Saying that you don’t have an ideology is an unacceptable answer.
  • Explain how your invitation to present a public outreach lecture to a diverse audience was not inappropriate, given your recent opinion pieces against diversity published in Newsweek and Bari Weiss’s newsletter. You are aware that those opinions are in conflict with the intent of the lecture, right?
  • You were instead offered an opportunity to present your scientific results to the scientific community at MIT, which is a rather prestigious opportunity right there. Explain how this substitution harms you. Bonus points: demonstrate self-awareness by explaining how peculiar it is that opposition to diversity can be offensive to the general public, but somehow can be acceptable to the faculty at a university.
  • Why would you go crying to Bari Weiss, a known conservative ideologue, about “unfairness”? Do you think that the playing field is not level elsewhere? Why?
  • It is an assumption in your complaints about diversity, equity, and inclusion that women are on a “level playing field” in science, and that therefore efforts to level that field imply that “women can’t excel in science.” Justify your claim that women and minorities do not face discrimination.
  • In your Newsweek piece, you assert that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives “entails treating people as members of a group rather than as individuals, repeating the mistake that made possible the atrocities of the 20th century” in an attempt to link efforts to offset generations of discrimination and oppression to, for instance, the Holocaust or Stalinist purges. Please try to demonstrate that you have any historical awareness at all, or even a sense of shame.

I don’t think he’d even be able to stumble past the first question without falling into mindless conservative cant, which is good, because I’ve got enough exams to grade this weekend without having to deal with a privileged asshole making up crap to justify his privilege.

Why is it always the progressives framed as the problem?

WTF? She can’t afford shoes? Or a broom?

There’s this new book on behavioral genetics out, The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality, by Kathryn Paige Harden. I am not going to read it. I’ll never read it. If I were sent a free copy, I’d just throw it in the trash.

I know! I sound like I’m pre-judging it! But I can’t help it, everything I’ve read about it makes it clear that Harden has Steve Pinker disease. That’s the habit of creating a false dichotomy and stuffing any hint of leftist ideology into the extreme, just so you can easily dismiss it, and making those damned progressives the enemy of science, no matter what their views. Pinker did that with his terrible “blank slate” nonsense (no, no one believes that human beings are born with a complete absence of predispositions, or that genes don’t influence behavior). Why should I read something that has declared people like me to be bad by stuffing words in our mouths?

For a perfect example of this bullshit, here’s a profile in the New Yorker.

Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters?
The behavior geneticist Kathryn Paige Harden is waging a two-front campaign: on her left are those who assume that genes are irrelevant, on her right those who insist that they’re everything.

Well fuck you too, New Yorker. I’m a fairly typical progressive, you don’t have to work at all hard to convince me that genetics matters. It does. But hey, sure, claim that I think genes are irrelevant, so you can claim that sweet centrist middle ground. Who are you arguing with, anyway?

To be fair, I’d also point out that on the far right, even among the most ridiculous bigots, they don’t believe that genes are everything. They’d also tell you that money matters.

Here’s the real difference:

Ask me if genetics matters, and I’d say yes, but that the interactions between genes and environment are so deeply intertwined that you can’t separate them out, and I don’t know precisely how genetics matters, and neither do you.

Ask someone on Harden’s side the same question, and they’ll say yes (Agreement! Consensus!), but that they think they know how, or are at least working on figuring out all the answers, which will show that vague properties like “educational attainment” have a robust genetic component. And I will argue that no, they aren’t even close.

I will roll my eyes especially hard when they try to tell me they’re figuring it out with GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Studies), twin studies, and polygenic scores, and that they affirm long-held assumptions by the privileged white class in our country. Yeah, no. Here’s a good article that, unlike the New Yorker, isn’t fawning over her fuzzy genetic determinism.

Rather than admit that these studies feed fascistic and racist ideas, she attempts to “both-sides” the issues, focusing on leftists, for whom she appears to have some disdain, fancying herself as some kind of sensible centrist, by contrast. Case in point is her interpretation of a study related to bias towards genetic determinists:

“… a scientist who reported genetic influence on intelligence was also perceived as less objective, more motivated to prove a particular hypothesis, and more likely to hold non-egalitarian beliefs that predated their scientific research career…people who described themselves as politically liberal were particularly likely to doubt the scientist’s objectivity when she reported genetic influences on intelligence.”

Her point here is to paint the left as hopelessly biased on this subject, but despite Harden’s dubious effort to paint herself as a leftist, many individuals touting genetic determinist views also harbor racist and classist views that are hardly egalitarian. There are obvious reasons for this and it doesn’t take a leftist to distrust their motives, nor should one expect leftists to embrace a sugar-coated version of genetic determinism.

Isn’t it curious how these gene-crazy people always try to find ways to demonize the people who aren’t racist/fascist/bigots? It would be nice if they were even more fastidious about the racists who do so love their work.

And there’s the science behind their claims. There is a place for GWAS studies. If you’re using them as a tool to trace lineages, fine. If you’re using them to identify candidate genes that you’ll then analyze with experimental work, great. If you instead are using them to label some marker as a potential causal agent for some complex behavioral phenomenon, no thank you very much go away now.

The actual science is far less impressive, and for those not familiar, it essentially relies on establishing genetic “correlations,” without defining what or how these genes might influence a particular trait. The principle behind the studies is not much different than what commercial genealogy sites like Ancestry.com do, but instead of establishing ethnicity or ancestry, they correlate the genetic variants that are more common in one group than another for a particular behavioral trait, or just about anything that can be designated on a questionnaire. Then they score the total number of these correlated variants a person has for a “polygenic score,” the idea being that a higher score makes it more likely you will have the trait. This is based on the hypothesis that traits are “polygenic,” consisting of hundreds or thousands of genetic variants. It is a probabilistic assessment, with no definitive set of genetic variants that would confer a trait or explanation of how any of these variants would contribute to the trait, nor explain why many with high scores do not have the trait and many with low scores do.

In truth, applying a polygenic score for a trait isn’t a whole lot different than commercial genealogy sites assessing whether someone has genetic variation that is more common for, say, Italian or Korean people. The difference is that Ancestry.com is not absurdly claiming that these genetic variations are causing Italians to like pizza or Koreans to use chopsticks. That, however, is essentially what behavioral geneticists are trying to claim, but instead of pizza or chopsticks, Harden is focused largely on so-called “educational attainment.”

Everything is polygenic. The relationships between different genes are also certainly non-linear, so you can’t just add up slight effects to claim the whole of the outcome is predictable or important. You definitely can’t talk about causality (oh, and Harden backs up frantically every time anyone mentions the “causal” word, with good reason.)

Thus, we have the circular argument that keeps the field of behavioral genetics alive: The heritability of a trait seen in twin studies proves there is a genetic basis for that trait, and the fact that we are not able to confirm twin studies via genetic studies shows only that we haven’t found the genes we expected yet, but we know must exist because of twin studies. Such circular assumptions are then presented as established science. For example, Harden claims as fact that behavioral traits are “polygenic”:

“Schizophrenia and autism and depression and obesity and educational attainment are not associated with one gene. They are not associated with even a dozen different SNPs. They are polygenic – associated with thousands upon thousands of SNP’s [genetic variants] scattered all throughout a person’s genome.”

These contradictory assumptions leave us with a “polygenic” model with thousands of genetic variants adding up to a tiny bit of heritability, and unidentified “rare variants,” to be found at a later date, accounting for the remaining huge chunks of missing heritability. This is simply wishful thinking.

Nonetheless, Harden embraces the idea that these genetic studies will someday close the gap on this missing heritability, touting a recent study for educational attainment in which she claims, “You can account for 13% of the variance.” Although this is not anywhere near what one would expect from twin studies, on the surface it is significantly better than the usual 2 to 3% that such studies generally yield. It is a bit of sleight hand, however, for Harden to tout this figure, when she also touts within family studies (comparing the genetics of siblings and their parents and then assessing their educational attainment polygenic score), as a way to strip down to the actual causal genes, and such a study was conducted and brought this figure back down to 2 or 3%. Such decreases are merely a flesh wound for Harden, though, who notes that, “… the heritability of educational attainment is still not zero.”

Here’s the thing, though. I’m going to be hearing about this book for years to come, all from the alt-right and right-wing losers who promote the kind of racial determinism underlying its theme, and what I will see from us horrible lefties is dismissal and rightful recognition that it doesn’t demonstrate what it claims…which will lead to people like Harden or Charles Murray or Steve Sailer claiming that we’re the bad guys, and siding with Harden. Yet Harden will insist that her sympathies are with progressives and social justice, and oh no, she doesn’t see anything wrong with her most ardent supporters finding affirmation of their racist views in her book.

Hey, has she done an interview with Joe Rogan or Jordan Peterson or Bret Weinstein/Heather Heying yet? They’re going to love her.

Rod Dreher still has a job

I know, it’s hard to believe but he does. He’s got a strange little niche as the “crunchy con”, a granola-eating Catholic conservative, and seems to get writing gigs all over the place. Given recent and ongoing historical revelations, just the word “Catholic” gives me heebie-jeebies, but I guess I’m alone in that, given that some people think “Jesuitical” is a compliment and that the Supreme Court seems to have been packed with practitioners of that bizarre faith.

But anyway, back to Rod Dreher. I actively avoid reading anything by the guy, which means that I only see the most outrageous excerpts that have already spread far and wide, so I admit to some sampling bias here. But how in the name of all that is holy and unholy did the opening paragraph of a recent essay pass by an editor?

I have never given circumcision a single thought, other than to consent to my sons’ circumcision. Europeans think its weird for American Gentiles to be circumcised, and I think they’re right … but I remember the one kid we had in my elementary school class, a black boy who had been born at home, and who was not circumcised. All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that. The kid didn’t know why his penis was so strange looking, and neither did we. Third grade, man.

That is amazing. The first sentence is the car driving through the fence railing and over the cliff, the second sentence is the bone-crushing crunch as it hits a boulder on the way down, and the third is when the vehicle bursts into flame and explodes. It’s like a 70s detective show.

The overall message of the essay is one I agree with, that routine circumcision is a bad practice, but how he gets there is weirdly traumatic.

The first bit is expected and routine — of course Rod Dreher never gave it a moment’s thought when he agreed to let doctors do unnecessary surgery on his children’s penises. He put far more thought into the arguments of anti-vaxxers when he decided to ignore his doctors and space out his children’s vaccination schedule, but hacking off bits of a baby’s flesh? Sure, everyone else is doing it, let’s go along.

But then, the presentiment of doom comes along when he introduces the subject of his reminiscence…a black boy. His skin color is totally irrelevant to his point, but it does prime the explosives nicely for that moment when he sets off primitive root wiener, which was monstrous. Yikes. Hey, editor at the American Conservative: you’ve got an essay about the perils of circumcision, and you could have honed it easily by snipping out “black” and removing the whole racist diversion into the black child’s monstrous, primitive penis but did you? No, you did not. You may not have even noticed.

Dreher was a late convert to Catholicism (he has since left the church, after Pope Benedict retired, because he was concerned at how it has lost “rigor” since Vatican II in 1959 — he’s a very strange man) so his religious upbringing doesn’t quite explain his bizarre childhood behavior. All the boys in his elementary school would gather around the urinal to stare at a penis? I don’t believe it. I don’t recall ever seeing any other child’s penis in elementary school, let alone retaining it as a vivid memory later in life. In my schooling, the children wore pants, and using the urinal wasn’t an invitation to a communal gawping session. But then, maybe schools were different in Lousiana, where he grew up. Y’all wear pants down South, right?

I don’t think you can blame it on “Third grade, man.” In my third grade experience, I was obsessed with dinosaurs, not black boys’ penises.

What are you wearing?

Y’all know it is Orange Shirt Day, right?

It doesn’t change much, but at the very least I can make a statement that I’m aware of the injustice in how we Europeans treated the native people of this land. Get your orange shirt on!

By the way, I discovered several years ago that I had nothing that was orange in my closet — it’s a less common color for everyday apparel. You may have to go shopping for it.

I guess cowboys just hate Indians

There is this law called the Indian Child Welfare Act which, along with providing necessary protections, also helped kill the practice of tearing apart Indian families and putting their kids in boarding schools. Sounds like an obvious idea, right? It’s somewhat surprising that it was only enacted in 1978. Would you also be surprised to learn that some people are trying to overthrow that law?

It’s being challenged in child custody cases, with people actually saying that no, it is wrong to try and keep children with their relatives or their tribe, and their reasoning is unbelievable.

So a U.S. federal district judge did exactly that. He … a radical conservative judge in Texas. And he took the Indian Child Welfare Act and he checked it out the window and said that it was racial discrimination.

That’s their argument: that a law to protect an oppressed minority is racist. That’s rich, coming from a radical conservative, the kind of person who wants to preserve the privilege that maintains a white majority rule. He doesn’t care about racism, except when brown people get uppity.

What’s worrisome is that the decision was appealed all the way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and they split.

They strike down a few narrow parts of the law, but that 16 judge panel was evenly split on whether basically the foundation of the legal status of tribes is constitutional. And so that’s how close we are to a scary result in this case. And I think that we’ll have to see what the Supreme Court will do. But it’s terrifying to think that the Supreme Court is going to take it up and all federal Indian law is on the table.

I wonder how many Trump appointees were involved. The Republicans have been doing their best to pack the courts. I wonder who could possibly want to strike down the ICWA, and it’s “private adoption attorneys, corporate lawyers and this universe of right-wing money and operatives”.

It always astonishes me, a professor at a college with a student body that is about 20% Indian, how much discrimination goes on in the communities around me — discrimination that is almost entirely invisible to me, and it’s disturbing when it rises up where an oblivious old white dude can see it.

Here’s another story, from Nebraska, in which busybodies in a public school decided to cut Lakota kids’ hair in the name of searching for lice. What gets me is all these white ranchers defending the school secretary who took it upon herself to hack at the kids’ hair (they didn’t have lice, by the way). She’s a nice lady, they say, she didn’t mean any harm, “She did it to help the children and keep the school safe”, etc. I don’t believe it. My particular culture doesn’t attach the kind of importance to long hair that the Lakota do, and if some school official had taken scissors to my kids’ hair, I would have marched to the school district office in a rage and demanded that they be fired. You don’t get to make those kinds of decisions for my children, they have more autonomy than that.

It’s an act that doesn’t have the historical resonance it does for the Lakota, so I can only imagine a fraction the anger it would generate.

As the story circulated on social media, raw emotions surfaced. Grandparents shared stories of how their hair had been cut in boarding schools decades ago.

“Having the seventh, eighth, tenth generation having to go through it again … I mean, it’s just a big eye opener because it’s being re-lived,” LeRoy said.

On March 3, 1819, nearly 201 years to the day before the children’s hair was cut, the United States signed the Civilization Fund Act. That ushered in an era from 1860 to 1978 when boarding schools nationwide, including in Nebraska, separated Native children from their families, punished them for speaking their language, and often cut their long hair.

“… All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” Capt. Richard H. Pratt, who founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, famously said in 1892.

In 1884, Christian missionaries came to South Dakota’s Yankton Reservation and took eight-year-old Zitkála-Šá from her mother.

“I remember being dragged out, though I resisted by kicking and scratching wildly,” Zitkála-Šá wrote in 1900 of her hair cutting. “In spite of myself, I was carried downstairs and tied fast in a chair. I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit…now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.”

Are we really going to be fooled by a bunch of racists who cry that it’s racist to interfere with their racism?

Must every American story be built on a racist foundation?

OK, so after a long theater hiatus, I broke down and saw Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. There were some good bits, in particular the fight in the bus at the beginning, but after that it was a long slide down to end in a lot of CGI goop to wrap it up and incorporate the hero and Awkwafina in some kind of Avengers/superhero gemisch.

The big flaw in the movie was that there was so much exposition and so many flashbacks that the story never really got any momentum going. It’s a martial arts movie! Why are you stopping the kicking and punching and flying leaps to fill in a rather humdrum back story?

There’s a good reason for that, though. We have no cultural background on which to frame the story — they had to explain everything, because you won’t find it anywhere except in comic books from the 1970s. Shang-Chi was invented by two white American guys, based on their assumptions about Chinese culture, which were in turn formulated by an English novelist in the early 20th century. This has zero connections with Chinese culture and mythology — except for the idea that all Chinese guys should know chop-sockey.

Furthermore, that English novelist is best known for … Fu Manchu.

According to his own account, Sax Rohmer decided to start the Dr Fu Manchu series after his Ouija board spelled out C-H-I-N-A-M-A-N when he asked what would make his fortune. Clive Bloom argues that the portrait of Fu Manchu was based on the popular music hall magician Chung Ling Soo, “a white man in costume who had shaved off his Victorian moustache and donned a Mandarin costume and pigtail”. As for Rohmer’s theories concerning “Eastern devilry” and “the unemotional cruelty of the Chinese,” he seeks to give them intellectual credentials by referring to the travel writing of Bayard Taylor. Taylor was a would-be ethnographer, who though unversed in Chinese language and culture used the pseudo-science of physiognomy to find in the Chinese race “deeps on deeps of depravity so shocking and horrible, that their character cannot even be hinted.” Rohmer’s protagonists treat him as an authority.

Rohmer wrote 14 novels concerning the villain. The image of “Orientals” invading Western nations became the foundation of Rohmer’s commercial success, being able to sell 20 million copies in his lifetime.

Marvel originally based Shang-Chi on that concept. Shang-Chi was the son of the evil Fu Manchu. He was renamed in the movie as Xu Wenwu, because Marvel lost the rights to the Rohmer character. I notice, too, that although the movie has an amazing Asian cast, these are the writers:

Cretton, at least, is Asian-American, born to a mother of Japanese descent, but otherwise, this is a story by white guys built on a framework created by a racist idea of the Yellow Peril. At least Marvel is doing a bit of white-washing of its ugly history.

Correction: David Callaham is also Chinese-American, so two of the writers have appropriate connections.

I’ll also add that the movie has significant Asian contributions, and representation is important. I just think the source material has a troubling derivation.

“It’s evil! Don’t touch it!”

Actual photo of Emil Kirkegaard (center)

I’m sorry. I’m going to mention Emil Kirkegaard now. He popped up on my cursed Twitter feed lately.

Kirkegaard, if you never heard of him, is a pretentious Danish pseudoscientist whose main claim to fame is that he’s a loud “race realist”, that he has defended child pornography, and has made the suggestion that we could make pedophiles happy and children safe from psychological harm if we…

Hang on. This is truly repulsive and vile. You can stop now if you want.

[Read more…]

Trapped by racial genetics…get out now!

I learned two things from this peculiar article, DNA Testing Forced Me To Rethink My Entire Racial Identity: that there is a terrible undercurrent of self-loathing among some black people, and that there is a pervasive over-emphasis on genes vs. culture. The latter I already knew, the former I guess I should have known.

The story is that the author, whose last name is Garcia, always assumed she was Hispanic, even though her family had no hint of Hispanic culture and didn’t even speak Spanish. Then, they took genetics tests. Shock, horror, they were just…black Americans.

The Garcias are led by a pair of oddball patriarchs who could give Clark Griswold a run for his money: my father, Joe, 71, and his brother, Tony, 68. My dad and uncle identify culturally as African-American — they were raised by a black woman from rural Maryland. But according to the family history, their father was of Mexican-Indian descent, hence the last name.

Note that important point: they identify culturally as African-American. Why would you think a genetic test would trump your lived experience?

Well, last summer, Uncle Tony sent in his DNA sample for my niece’s school project, and what ensued was a chain of existential group texts and conversations involving all the Garcias, former Garcias, and anyone married to a Garcia.

My uncle’s ethnic breakdown identified him as more than 70 percent African and 20 percent European.

“No Spanish! Not one drop!” texted my cousin Tony, an attorney in Baltimore and Uncle Tony’s son, referring to the fact that we apparently had no Mexican roots. As if we’d all missed that part.

What do they think it means to be Mexican? There is no such thing as genetically Mexican: the people of Mexico are incredibly diverse, with no one unique genetic signature. If that 20 percent European didn’t include any Spanish loci, and there were no Native American indications, then yes, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that they have Mexican ancestry. But so what? They are who they are, with their own distinct family history.

They did their own research, non-genetic research. They talked to their family, and found out about the author’s paternal grandfather.

“I once overheard my mom and dad say Uncle Joe was a wanted man,” said another new cousin, Marie Shakoor, 71. “He was wanted under the name Will Worthey, and that’s why we think he changed his name to Joe Garcia.”

My cousin Tony said our grandfather exhibited classic escapist behavior, which supported Shakoor’s theory.

“If you’re trying to change your name and your identity, you’re typically trying to evade law enforcement,” Tony said. “Choosing to be Mexican-Indian may not have been our grandfather’s first choice, but it may have been the better option.”

Now that’s interesting and genuine, maybe a little unsavory, but it’s real. The genetic test was irrelevant. Again, who you are isn’t just an assortment of alleles, it’s the cultural influences that shape you far more. Tracing your genetic lineage is just one component of your identity, and probably not the most important part.

Then the story gets a little disturbing, when we find out why the author thought it was so important.

At first, I was in disbelief. What about all those people who came up to me on the streets of New York City and started speaking Spanish? They never doubted for a moment that I was Hispanic. And I had always killed it in Spanish class, seemingly because I had Latino blood coursing through my veins. Accepting that I wasn’t a Garcia felt dangerously close to abandoning my identity.

Oh god, so many misconceptions…language isn’t transmitted via “Latino blood”. New York is a polyglot city, and culturally Hispanic people might speak their language to you because that’s how they’re comfortable talking. When I visited Iceland, strangers tended to address me in Icelandic — it wasn’t because they had a psychic understanding that I, too, was a native. Genetically, I’m also about 4% Neandertal, but I am culturally 0% Neandertal — I can’t knap a flint worth a darn and don’t have any of the words of their language flowing in my veins.

But to cringe even more…

The more I learned, the less I wanted to know. I had always liked being a Garcia. Growing up in a black community, where surnames like Smith, Brown and Jackson are ubiquitous, being a Garcia set me apart.

Perhaps more significantly, being a Garcia meant I could trace my roots to an ancestral homeland — albeit Mexico, not Africa. This was noteworthy when you consider that many African-Americans lost all ancestral ties as a result of slavery and the slave trade.

Slavers committed a great crime, breaking the chain of cultural transmission for millions of people, and denying human beings knowledge of families and tradition and customs. But why would you want to set yourself apart from your neighbors and friends who had similar family histories?

Maybe one great result of these genetic tests is that the author will stop trying to set herself apart from her community. An additional benefit would be if she’d also see the limitations of genetics, and take pride in who she actually is.

Who’d have thought the Wounded Knee Massacre was an appropriate setting for a romance?

Last year, the Romance Writers of America experienced some spectacular drama — accusations of racism, infighting, lawsuits, etc. I guess it’s a problem when the membership of your organization consists of a large number of white women, with a disproportional representation of Karens. Things had settled down, I guess, and everyone promised to do better.

This year, they were handing out their annual awards (called the Vivian), and one of the winners was…a love story about two white Christians set against the backdrop of the Wounded Knee Massacre? Which was just an accident? And it’s OK, because god forgives the American cavalry? And the author is actually named “Karen”!

This year, the Vivian in the “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements” category was awarded to Karen Witemeyer for At Love’s Command, and a number of its critics thought RWA was Stuck on Stupid again. Witemeyer’s book, says Religion News Service, “opens with a depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre that some readers and authors have criticized as romanticizing the killing of Native Americans.” The love interest, an officer in the 7th Cavalry, commands the Lakota Sioux to put down their weapons, citing Scripture as his rationale. When a religious leader from the tribe begins chanting, a shot goes off (on purpose? by accident? from whose side?), the order to fire is issued and scores of men, women and children are slaughtered. Then the hero asks God’s forgiveness and, eventually, claims his woman.

What were they thinking, and worse, what was the author thinking? She should have just titled it Custer’s Revenge. You can read a more thorough summary of the mess, or you can even read the beginning of the book for free. I don’t recommend it. It’s Christian apologetics and historical revisionist nonsense, pretending that it was all the fault of the Lakota and that the soldiers didn’t really want to murder women and children.

This is the account of American Horse, a chief of the Oglala Lakota: “There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce … A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing … The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through … and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys … came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.” Some women were found killed two miles from the massacre — they’d been running away, and the cavalry ran them down.

Did you know the US government handed out 20 medals of honor to the soldiers who perpetrated the slaughter? It rather diminishes the “honor” part. I’m beginning to suspect that “awards” are kind of a bad idea.

The result of this appalling romance writing award was, you guessed it, another implosion at the RWA.

The irony of the choice did not escape several who took to social media to protest: On Twitter, author Jenny Hartwell shared an email she sent to RWA board members: “Romances have flawed heroes and heroines who find redemption through the transformative power of love. However, aren’t there some people who shouldn’t be redeemed? Nazis. Slave owners. Soldiers who commit genocide.” Hartwell continued: “Can this author write this story? Absolutely. Free speech is important. But should our organization give this story its highest award? Absolutely not.”

Others resigned their membership in RWA. One member, Bronwyn Parry, served as a judge for the Vivians. “I had high hopes for the VIVIAN award and the strategies for cultural change that the RWA Board have put in place over the past two years,” Parry said in a statement on her website. She expressed pleasure at the diversity of the offerings in the category she was judging — a stated goal of the awards — but was dismayed when all the finalists in that category were (including her) white women writing heterosexual characters. When At Love’s Command was named a winner, she asked that her book be withdrawn from final consideration and her name removed from the finalists’ list.

The award has since been rescinded — I guess the judges opened their eyes and actually read the book they were honoring.