Heredity – It’s More Than Genetics

When I was a kid, I never thought much about heredity other than the fact that everyone said I looked like my father.  But now that I am a father, have children, and am helping my elderly parents – I think about it a lot more.  What did my parents genetically pass onto me and what did my wife and I pass onto our children?  Knowing the answer is important but, in the end, it isn’t anything we have any control over.

But I have also found that families pass on things socially that have nothing to do with genetics.  I don’t think it is an understatement that some of the most important things of all – both positive and negative habits, likes, dislikes, and views – have nothing to do with genetics at all.  They are passed on by family tradition – not by chromosomes.

I know that most people who value faith are people who grew up in a household where that was important.  The same thing happens with exercise, eating sensibly, and even how we spend or save our money.  By contrast, many people who abuse alcohol, chronically gamble, or spend beyond their means often grew up in households where this behavior was not uncommon.

Today, my wife brought my children to the YMCA to learn how to swim.  There were children of every race there.  She said that the instructor started sorting the children by their ability to swim.  One African-American girl was sorted into a group that swam well but mainly had white children.  None of the white children would make room for her to join the group and she had to go to the back of the group to find a space.  This is with children who aren’t even in second grade yet!  Such behavior is not genetic – it is learned.  We should be careful what we are passing on to the next generation.  These white children will learn one day that you can’t tell about the character of anyone based on their skin color, gender, or a host of other physical factors that tell us nothing about the quality of a person.  To exclude someone based on their race limits who we are and what we can achieve collectively and will be a detriment to each child who holds such views as they try to assimilate and compete in our national community.  A young  person growing up will not go far in the corporate world, in the military, in government, or in higher education if they try to value people simply based on their race.

The human race will be what we pass on to the next generation.  I hope we do a better job collectively in what we share with our children.

Until next time,

Tom

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3 thoughts on “Heredity – It’s More Than Genetics

  1. I recently finished reading Taylor Branch’s trilogy entitled “America in The King Years”; a definitive work on the Civil Rights Movement. That this incident happened in 2010 is a travesty.

  2. The instructor was telling the kids to sit in a specific order. It is not just that the little girl wanted to sit between the white kids. She was told to do so. The grandparents of the white kids started yelling at her to just sit down at the back of the line. The little girl’s grandmother (I was just about the only mother) said to me, Those kids picked the right child to pick on because she will do as she is told, but if they had picked on one of her siblings, it would have been different.” I guess she was learning, too.

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