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Moreover, biologists have yet to figure out which genes on a strand of human DNA correspond to the superficial features we attribute to race or ethnicity, such as skin color. "If you and I wanted to set up a laboratory to identify racial groups," Tracey says, "then what we would do is look at the skin-color genes and the hair-color genes and the hair-texture genes and the nose-shape genes and the lip-shape genes and the head-shape genes. But we don't know which genes those are."
As recently as the Forties, physical anthropologists identified as many as 40 different races around the world. But now biologists, after studying Homo sapiens from within, aren't even sure if there is such a thing as race. In June 2000 two groups of scientists finished mapping the more than three billion different chemical segments of the human genome. The genome consists of two sets of 23 DNA molecules, or chromosomes, each set inherited from one parent. The genome is estimated to contain about 40,000 genes.
That historic accomplishment set the stage for a worldwide study in 2002, in which biologists scanned human genomes in 52 populations across all the continents and found the DNA sequences to be more than 99 percent similar. The differences reflected the old geographically based racial categories -- Caucasian, African, Asiatic -- but only "to the extent that those categories are part of a geographic continuum," explains Kenneth Kidd, professor of genetics, psychiatry, and molecular biology at Yale University and an author of the 2002 study. "There is, in a sense, a rough correspondence between the popular ideas of race representing different geographic regions, but if you try to look at the concept of race and say, öWhere do you draw the boundaries between one race and another?' there's no place you can do it. It's much more like a continuum, in the sense that the Middle Eastern populations are a bit more similar to the African populations than are northern European populations. And central Asian populations, both those up in Siberia and those down in the subcontinent of India, are intermediate between western Asians and far-eastern Asians."
Which is to say that a Caucasian person is likely to share genes with Asians and Africans. "When you look at the history of Europe, you had the Visigoths and the Mongol hordes running through, and they were serious about raping and pillaging," notes FIU's Tracey. "They left a lot of genes behind and they left a lot of people behind. So I tell everybody I'm full-blooded Irish, but the Vikings were there and there were Moors from Spain who landed in Ireland after the armada wrecked, and they became part of the population. So we're all mongrels, except on holidays like St. Patrick's Day."
Not only are our top five mayoral candidates mongrels, they are biologically identical. There is no discernible difference between at least 99 percent of their DNA and anyone else's on the planet. And because the ancestors of all five are from the European part of the continuum, nearly all the remaining one percent is also the same.
They really aren't even Hispanic or Anglo. "The term Hispanic is purely sociopolitical. It has no biological significance whatsoever. Hispanics are very heterogeneous people," says Rene Herrera, a biologist and the director of FIU's Human Diversity Laboratory, home to one of the largest repositories of human DNA in the world. "Anglo is an historical term. It comes from Anglo-Saxons. The Saxons and Anglos, or Anglais, were two Germanic tribes that invaded Britain in the Fifth Century A.D., from what is now Normandy, France."
But all you really need to do is look at Alvarez, Cancela, Diaz de la Portilla, Ferré, and Morales to see what color they are.
"In terms of the biology, I would say biologically they are all Caucasians," Tracey acknowledges.
You mean white guys?
"Yeah." -Kirk Nielson