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Are Genetic Testing Sites the New Social Networks?

Sherri Tredway, 55, is a marketing and development director for a social service agency based in Washington, Ind. She was adopted as a baby, and in January she drove two and a half hours to Bowling Green, Ky., to meet her biological half sister, Patty Roberts-Freeman, 60, with whom she connected through AncestryDNA. Ms. Roberts-Freeman needed an outfit for a wedding, so they arranged to meet at a shopping mall to find one together. They started in the food court, where they bought sodas and talked for over an hour about their mother, their current lives, their upbringings. They then went to a Belk department store, where…

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Critic’s Notebook: The Racial Spectacle of DNA Test Result Videos

It’s probably not a coincidence that these mechanisms of biological self-discovery are on the rise now, amid seething tensions over racism, immigration and what constitutes a “real American.” White supremacists are drawn to DNA testing to prove their racial purity, excitedly publicizing their exclusively European ancestries (or else dismissing any trace of outside DNA as a Jewish conspiracy.) But progressive white people seem to be using these services in a different way: as methods for performing racial harmony and assuaging white guilt.These DNA spectacles offer a rare public forum where people of all backgrounds are encouraged to talk about their heritages in very similar ways, with a…

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