What Happens When White Nationalists Take A DNA Test? This Couple Wants To Find Out.

Keep an eye out. The pro-diversity pair is traveling across the country.

In the aftermath of the attacks in Charlottesville, rising concerns about white supremacy and white nationalism have been reflected in the headlines. But online, away from newspaper reporters and the television crews, the most bombastic white nationalists are running into a problem: their own DNA.

As reportedby Stat News, on the message boards of hate groups and in the corners of the country where the Ku Klux Klan is active, access to newly released DNA technology is throwing a wrench into the lives of bigots. Seeking confirmation of their "pure blood," these white supremacists have accidentally confronted the truth: most people's family histories are more complex than they (or their grandparents) might realize.

"There is no such thing as 'pure white,'" Jamie Toll, one of the founders of the I Am Migration project, told A Plus. "The worst enemy of a white nationalist is a DNA test. I think there is no way they are ever going to come back as a 'pure race.'"

Toll and his wife, Paola Baldion, are currently traveling across the country with 400 DNA kits that they are handing out to Americans who want to learn more about their ancestry. The kits, which were provided by MyHeritage, give anyone the couple encounters an opportunity to see what kind of secrets their DNA holds. An artist and an actress respectively, Toll and Baldion are also both immigrants. 

"We thought it was very unfair how the media and the politicians were depicting immigration and immigrants," Baldion said. "As artists, we thought it was our responsibility to do something about it... If we could test people across America and show them that we are all related and we're all mixed scientifically, maybe we could open people's minds and make them understand that there's no such thing as one race." 

So they did. The couple started in Patterson, New Jersey, a diverse community where at least 52 languages are spoken in the pubic school system. Then they went to Wheeling, West Virginia, which is 92 percent white. Then they went west, following the trail new and native-born Americans before them have long taken across the country.

Baldion and Toll relaxing in the back of their MyHeritage RV.
Baldion and Toll relaxing in the back of their MyHeritage RV. La Peligrosa

Along the way, they've spoken to a Syrian refugee family, a Russian who found out she was adopted, and a trans woman who always wanted to know her heritage. They even tested five random people they saw having a barbecue outside. In mid-September, when they get to California, they are going to turn around and come back, revealing the results of the DNA tests to participants along the way.

Of course, their journey took on new meaning after the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, where a white nationalist protesters killed counter-protester Heather Heyer and injured more than a dozen others with his car. Baldion and Toll were not far away in Wheeling, West Virginia when it happened, and described themselves as "shocked" at the news. In the wake of the attack, their desire to spread the DNA kits and try to sit down with a white supremacist only increased. 

"We would love to interview a white supremacist or extremist or alt-right person," Baldion said. "We would love to that, we are trying to find a way in how to approach them or how to find them."

Some already have. In 2013, white supremacist Craig Cobb went on daytime television to get the results of his DNA test. He dismissed being 14 percent sub-Saharan African as "statistical noise." Then he took to the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer to dismiss the results where, according to Stat News, he encountered plenty of other white supremacists in a similar predicament.

Baldion poses with a Muslim women who took the DNA test. 
Baldion poses with a Muslim women who took the DNA test.  La Peligrosa

As Toll and Baldion continue their journey across the states, they say they haven't encountered any trouble — and haven't even been afraid to tell people what they are doing: promoting immigration and diversity.

"The statistics prove that immigrants do improve an economy," Toll said. "We are an example of that and why we did the whole project is because we are very lucky to come from a different country and to have a voice for people who don't have one."

Baldion agreed.

"It's more likely for an immigrant to actually open his own business and go to a school and get a degree than an American who was born and raised here," she said. "Pretty much, generally, all the major tech companies in America now, they are first generation immigrant-run. Amazon, Apple, all the biggest tech companies were created by a first-generation immigrant." 

And as they've traveled with this message, they've had a hard time believing some of the frightening news they have seen on television. 

"From our journey across America, people are not racist," Toll said. "Everywhere we've been we've met beautiful, friendly people... even to the point we were wondering, do we even tell people what we really think?"

"Maybe we've gotten lucky," Baldion laughed. 

Maybe. Or maybe they are just experiencing the America that's less often in the headlines.

Cover photo: La Peligrosa

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