The below is a picture of one of my cousins as a child. He considers himself black, and married a black woman. He could very easily have been a 50’s poster child for middle class white America in Life or Look Magazine.
A new paper explains why it can be dangerous to think otherwise.
If a team of scientists in Philadelphia and New York have their way, using race to categorize groups of people in biological and genetic research will be forever discontinued.
The concept of race in such research is “problematic at best and harmful at worst,” the researchers argued in a new paper published in the journal Science on Friday.
However, they also said that social scientists should continue to study race as a social construct to better understand the impact of racism on health.
So what does all this mean? HuffPost Science recently posed that question and others to the paper’s co-author, Michael Yudell, who is associate professor and chair of community health and prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Why is it problematic to view race as a biological concept?
For more than a century, natural and social scientists have been arguing about whether race is a useful classificatory tool in the biological sciences — can it elucidate the relationship between humans and their evolutionary history, between humans and their health. In the wake of the U.S. Human Genome Project, the answer seemed to be a pretty resounding “no.”
In 2004, for example, Francis Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now director of the National Institutes of Health, called race a “flawed” and “weak” concept and argued that science needed to move beyond race. Yet, as our paper highlights, the use of race persist in genetics, despite voices like Collins, like Craig Venter — leaders in the field of genomics — who have called on the field to move beyond it.
We believe it is time to revisit this century-long debate and bring biologists, social scientists and scholars from the humanities together in a constructive way to find better ways to study the ever-important subject of human diversity.
The race concept should be removed from genetics research for the following reasons: Genetic methods do not support the classification of humans into discrete races, [and] racial assumptions are not good biological guideposts. Races are not genetically homogenous and lack clear-cut genetic boundaries. And because of this, using race as a proxy to make clinical predictions is about probability.
Of course, medicine can be about best guesses, but are we serving patients well if medical decisions are made because a patient identifies as part of a certain racial group or are identified as belonging to a specific race? What if, for example, the probability is that if you are white you are 90 percent likely to have a beneficial or at least non-harmful reaction to a particular drug? That sounds pretty good, but what if you are that 1 in 10 that is likely to have a harmful reaction? That doesn’t sound so good, and that is the problem with most race-based predictions. They are best guesses for an individual.
We also believe that a variable so mired in historical and contemporary controversy has no place in modern genetics. Race has both scientific and social meanings that are impossible to tease apart, and we worry that using such a concept in modern genetics does not serve the field well….Read the Rest Here…