Thoughts On Fighting Stigma, and the New Season of "Finding Your Roots" Starting This Fall

TheRoot.com is the website of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a gentleman of multiple talents and acclaim, whom Wikipedia describes as an "American literary critic, teacher, historian, filmmaker and public intellectual". Getting asked to provide commentary for a blog post for The Root was a proud moment for me as a professional writer.

One of Dr. Gates' readers sent in a question to his website earlier this year, raising concerns about a romantic relationship between cousins. As a writer and a genetic counselor with specialization in genealogy/ancestry, I was happy to provide my professional insight.

The scientific perspective I took on this taboo topic was seen as a bit too compassionate and neutral for some readers. I received some flak but still stand by the response I posted on my blog shortly thereafter.

Apparently I am not the only one getting hate mail for writing publicly about controversial topics. The Internet has made a lot things great possible and easier (like in my own situation, being able to connect with other parents who have a child with Dyspraxia).

Unfortunately, the Internet has also made spreading hate and misinformation easier as well. 

Essentially, the message of my reactionary post was this: stigma is unhelpful and counter-productive. It often punishes those who completely innocent of any wrong-doing (children, for example), those who have no control over a life situation, or are at no fault. Stigma sucks. And haters be warned, just because you can use the Internet to share your thoughts does not mean you are right, or that the rest of us will listen to you.

Whether the original blog post and my response made any impact on those who do stigmatize others regarding the topic of "cousin couple" relationships, I have no idea. But it felt good to do my little part to fight back against those lurking in the corners of the Internet and casting judgment on people they do not know or understand. 

Thank you, readers, for tolerating my rant. Now, back to the reason I began writing this post in the first place! 

Dr. Gates and his team have created an amazing show Finding Your Roots which has received rave reviews over its multiple seasons. The fourth season of FYR is scheduled to air in fall 2017 on PBS (season premier October 3rd).

The show's premise? Genealogists and researchers track the family trees of a series of celebrities (writers, actors, politicians, musicians, and others). After the team has completed its research and compiled the guest's family history in a personalized "Book of Life", Dr. Gates sits down with his guest on camera (typically, two guests per episode). Together, Dr. Gates and his guest journey through the book, flipping the pages and learning the interesting stories uncovered about ancestors and forgotten parts of world history. DNA is a part of each show...but never "enough" for some people like myself!

Have you watched any episodes of Finding Your Roots in the past? Will you watch this season? Perhaps your favorite actor or politician or comedian will be featured this season. Check out the roster here