What DNA teaches us about the assumptions we make

What DNA teaches us about the assumptions we make

My friend was in terrible pain on her right side

It was so bad that her husband had driven her to the emergency unit at the local hospital.

She spent several very uncomfortable nights there, and waited a long time for any conclusive diagnosis.

The doctors were puzzled.

It couldn’t be diverticulitis because it was on her right side, and my friend’s family heritage is white European.

At least, that’s the assumption the doctors made just by looking at her face.

What they didn’t know what that she also had a small percentage of central Asian heritage. She knew that, but no one else had actually asked.

It seems that for people of Asian descent the pain often shows up on the right.

That false assumption and subsequent late diagnosis by doctors may have led to her being in pain for much longer than she needed to be.

We all have mixed heritage in one way or another. And so when we make unconscious assumptions about people without looking at the individual behind a given stereotype – or, as happens as lot today, behind a popular headline – we not only risk causing hurt and harm but we also miss an opportunity to learn.

Refugees, people seeking the safety of asylum, people fleeing economic chaos… We owe them more than an assumption. They are part of our beautiful, diverse human community.

Curiosity leads to rich conversation that teaches us so much about each other, and shows us a new reflection of ourselves in the stories we uncover.

Interesting conversation or experience to share?


  1. Janet Graham 2 years ago

    So many people think that civilizations have only become “transient’ in the last few hundreds of years, when in actuality as a people we have been “moving” since our history began. We are all immigrants, we are all human and we all deserve to be treated humanely…by others as well as ourselves.

    • Author
      Angela Sherman 2 years ago

      That’s so true, Janet. We are all a wonderful mixture – with the same shared humanity. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Heather H 2 years ago

    I love talking to Uber drivers al over the word and never assume we know their story.
    Last night I got a heck of a surprise as “Mohamed”in Slough turned out not to be from the sub continent or even Algeria Morocco.
    As a teacher of English as a foreign language (a great way to work on the move) I love accents so I kept quizzing him as there was something familiar yet unfamiliar in his and he was happy to keep the guessing game going. As it turned out, he was from Somalia but had spent 17 years living. In Copenhagen. Hence that familiar but unplaceable note. He got a shock when I say my 3 words of Danish to him 😂 we all had a much more fun cab ride than if we had sat in silence. Always be curious!

    • Author
      Angela Sherman 2 years ago

      That’s wonderful, Heather! 🙂 I love chatting with cab drivers too. I recently got chatting to one in the UK who was originally from Ghana but had lived most of his life in Germany, which he loved, but had then moved to Denmark to get married, but now he’s spending a little time in the UK (hence my cab ride with him), but planned to go back to Germany. You’re right – being curious can lead to some wonderful conversations.

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