Can a person be a ‘thoroughbred’? Some people pride themselves on their ethnic identity, imagining that as an individual they distinctly embody their cultural community. Nationalism encourages this. Yet advances in DNA mapping are revealing some truly amazing roots to the family trees of so-called ‘pure-bred’ patriots. The participants were asked to go on a journey to discover the sources of their mitochondrial DNA – that part of our genetic blueprint we inherit from our mothers, their mothers, and so on.

Watch the results of an amazing experiment here:

The results were shocking. Notions of ‘racial’ separateness were swept away for all but a tiny number of African participants who, alone, could claim to have remained indigenous to their original birth-lands. The rest of the participants, and the vast majority of people across the world, are a mixture of genetics from people groups we may think of as innately ‘foreign’ today. An Arab in the group discovers their Jewish DNA, a Scandinavian is shocked by Oriental origins, a Kurdish woman confronts Turkish ancestry and a Brit learns of German heritage.

I love this experiment, especially the discombobulation of those who had vested so much of their sense of self in what assumed was a water-tight national identity. Genetics are forcing a reconsideration of ‘race’. There is truly one human race. All of today’s ethnic groups have African origins. Ethnicity has amazing diversity and cultural differences can be acute, but, the building blocks of our very being tell us that there is so much more that unites than divides us.