HISTORY

Why America's Legacy of Racism is Hidden in Plain Sight

A story about the genetic consequences of chattel slavery

Allison Wiltz
4 min readFeb 11, 2024

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AI-generated photo of a Black woman wearing seashells | created by author using CANVA

Sometimes, the truth is hidden in plain sight. For instance, if you've ever seen the inside of a tree trunk, you could determine its age by counting the dark brown rings. The same can be said of Black Americans. If you see a Black person, their skin color, hair texture, and features tell a little of the family's story. After all, studies show the vast majority have an African ancestor who was enslaved. In this way, Black Americans have become a visual reminder of this country's darkest hour, chattel slavery. But there is undoubtedly more to the story, something hidden right beneath the surface that takes a scientific lens to uncover.

Through oral history passed on throughout generations, Black Americans have learned of the sexual violence that occurred throughout the chattel slavery era. They were made not only to work but often to perform sexual acts to appease White enslavers. After the Atlantic Slave Trade ended and American enslavers could no longer legally import enslaved people, this phenomenon became a way of increasing the enslaved population by raping and forcibly impregnating Black women. Genetic scientists have found evidence that these stories are more than urban legends.

One study, entitled Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas, indicated that the "rape of enslaved African women by slave owners and other sexual exploitation" contributed to a gender bias in the genetic makeup of Black Americans. While most of the enslaved population were Black men, Black women are overrepresented in the genome because of this systemic sexual exploitation. Now, this may be quite shocking for some Americans to learn, especially those who believe we can tuck this legacy under the rug as hidden history. Genetic evidence supports Black Americans' oral history regarding sexual exploitation and also explains why they often differ phenotypically from their West African counterparts.

This part of American history is not taught for two key reasons: discussions about sexual violence women endure are generally considered taboo, and Black women are regularly stereotyped as promiscuous to excuse the…

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Allison Wiltz

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola