Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Egerton Chang | ‘The Talk’, amazing ancestry and Olympic odds

Published:Sunday | July 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Niamke Ledbetter of Oak Cliff, Texas, holds a sign at a Black Lives Matter protest on Park Lane in Dallas on July 10.

Monday night, June 20, 2016, I gave my young son 'The Talk'. Not about the birds and the bees, but about the systemic prejudice built into the American judicial/police structure. I spoke about dealing with the police, generally, and, specifically, how to conduct himself if, for any reason, he is stopped over there.

This was after hearing the headlines on CNN and MSNBC about the Supreme Court decision earlier that morning, which, in effect allowed the police to stop and search without probable cause.

My son (now 12) was born in the US, visits there occasionally, and hopes to pursue his university degrees up north. His goal is to become a brain surgeon.

Later, I read in The Atlantic:

The US Supreme Court weakened the constitution's protections against unlawful police stops on Monday, ruling that evidence found during those interactions could be used in court if the officers also found an outstanding arrest warrant along the way.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said, "The warrant was valid, it predated the officer's investigation, and it was entirely unconnected with the stop."

He continued: "And once the officer discovered the warrant, he had an obligation to arrest him." That, in turn, allowed the officer to search the suspect to ensure he was not carrying any concealed weapons.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor bitterly disagreed. "If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop" and allow prosecution for any evidence he finds.

I had been meaning to speak to my son for some time, but because that decision would, in my opinion, allow the police more reason to harass any citizen and, particularly, people of colour, hence 'the talk' now.

Justice Sotomayor wrote, "This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants - even if you are doing nothing wrong."

Pointing out that there are 7.8 million outstanding warrants in the United States, she continued, "It is no secret that people of colour are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. For generations, black and brown parents have given their children 'the talk' instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them."

"By legitimising the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights."

The subsequent deaths at the hands of police of Philando Castile in a traffic stop in St Paul, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling for selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, only confirms my reason for having that talk.

The killing of Castile, in particular, however, makes me wonder: "Is there ever a right way to speak to, or deal with, an American officer of the law?"

Perhaps Jamaica should issue its own advisory to Jamaicans travelling to the US following the recent and similar actions of the Bahamas, Bahrain and the UAE.

One of my daughters recently did a DNA test for ancestry and health. It was performed by 23andMe, a personal-genetics testing company that complies with FDA's rules, and had a couple of surprising twists.

I am a 'full' Chinese. Yet, by the fact that my daughter is 44.7 per cent Chinese and 5.3% broadly East Asian and Southeast Asian, that means that I am just 89.4% 'Chinese'.

Like most Chinese-Jamaicans, I am a Hakka. Hakkas' ancestral homes are chiefly from the Hakka-speaking provincial areas of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hainan and Guizhou.

The Chinese characters for Hakka literally mean 'guest families'. Because of their 'guest people' ancestry, perhaps it isn't surprising that a small percentage of my DNA is broadly East Asian and Southeast Asian.

In a series of migrations, the Hakkas moved and settled in their present areas in Southern China, and from there, substantial numbers migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world.

As the most diasporic among the Chinese community groups, the worldwide population of Hakkas is about 80 million, according to Wikipedia. More surprising, however, is the other side of my daughter's ancestry.

Only 27.9 per cent of her DNA is traced to sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority (27.2 per cent) of which to West Africa.

Perhaps, most intriguing is the fact that 21.9% of her heredity is traceable to European ancestry, being 14.2% Northwestern European and 5.7% Southern Europe. Her mother, my wife, I had thought, was a mix of African and Indian with a touch of 'Syrian'. The genetic testing showed that the 'Syrian' is actually European. And she hasn't a trace of Indian in her. Could have fooled me.

Among my daughter's other genotypes is "one working copy of alpha-actinin-3 in fast-twitch muscle fibre. Many world-class sprinters and some endurance athletes have this genotype."

To think that one of my children could have been a Shelly-Ann or a Usain! LoL.

Speaking of 'fast-twitch' muscle fibres, the Olympics is just around a month away. Millions are wondering who might win certain events. And a few are actually putting their money where their mouth is. As of Thursday, July 14, 2016, oddsmaker Paddy Power was offering (arranged favourites first):

Men's 100m

Usain Bolt (JAM) 8/13

Justin Gatlin (USA) 6/4

Yohan Blake (JAM) 8/1

Trayvon Bromell (USA) 10/1

Andre De Grasse (CAN) 14/1

Jimmy Vicault (FRA) 16/1

Nickel Ashmeade (JAM) 50/1

Men's 200m

Usain Bolt (JAM) 1/2

Justin Gatlin (USA) 3/1

LaShawn Merritt (USA) 6/1

Yohan Blake (JAM) 8/1

Ameer Webb (USA) 16/1

Alonso Edward (PAN) 40/1

Nickel Ashmeade (JAM) 50/1

Men's 110m Hurdles

Omar McLeod (JAM) 4/11

Devon Allen (USA) 7/1

Hansle Parchment (JAM) 7/1

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (FRA) 8/1

Jeff Porter (USA) 16/1

Ronnie Ash (USA) 16/1

Dimitri Bascou (FRA) 16/1

Aleec Harris (USA) 25/1


Men's 4X100M Relay

Jamaica 4/6

USA 6/4

France 17/1

Germany 22/1

Canada 22/1

China 22/1

Great Britain 22/1

Antigua & Barbuda 25/1

Women's 100m

Dafne Schippers (NED) 7/4

Elaine Thompson (JAM) 5/2

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM) 7/2

Tori Bowie (USA) 5/1

English Gardner (USA) 11/2

Murielle Ahoure (CIV) 10/1

Women's 200m

Dafne Schippers (NED) 8/13

Elaine Thompson (JAM) 5/2

Tori Bowie (USA) 4/1

Murielle Ahoure (CIV) 25/1

English Gardner (USA) 11/2

Dina Asher-Smith (GBR) 25/1

WOMEN'S 4X100m Relay

Jamaica 4/6

USA 5/4

Trinidad & Tobago 14/1

Netherlands 22/1

Great Britain 40/1

Germany 40/1

Poland 60/1

Canada 60/1

Women's 4X400m Relay

USA 8/15

Jamaica 7/5

Bahamas 22/1

France 90/1

Nigeria 90/1

Cuba 90/1

Belgium 90/1


Remember that odds of 8/13 for Bolt (100m) means that $8 is paid on every $13, while odds of 8/1 for Blake means that $8 is paid for every $1 staked, provided they win.

It also means that Dafne Schippers is as favoured to win (8/13) the women's 200m as Bolt is to win the men's 100m, and that Omar McLeod is an even bigger favourite (4/11) to win the men's 110m hurdles than Bolt (1/2) in his pet event, the men's 200m.

We shall see!

• Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to and