I Don’t Need a DNA Test to Tell Me How Black I Am

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2019-04-17 14:08Z by Steven

I Don’t Need a DNA Test to Tell Me How Black I Am

The New York Times

Erin Aubry Kaplan, Contributing Opinion Writer

Simone Noronha

Tests like 23andMe are a fad that distracts us from the reality of race in America.

When my sister called me a few months ago to say, a little breathlessly, that she had gotten back her results from 23andMe, I snapped at her, “I don’t want to know!” She kept trying to share, but I kept shutting her down, before saying I had to go and hanging up. Afterward I felt a little shaky, as if I’d narrowly escaped disaster.

I’ve never been interested in DNA tests. I have nothing against people discovering they’re 18 percent German or 79 percent Irish, but I think the tests are a fad that distracts us from the harsh realities of race and identity in America. They encourage us to pretend that in terms of shaping who we really are, individual narratives matter more than the narrative of the country as a whole. There is no test for separation and tribalism, and yet they are baked into our cultural DNA.

But that didn’t explain the panic I felt during that phone call. I was a little embarrassed that I couldn’t take the news, whatever that news turned out to be. And then I realized that was it: I didn’t want to “turn out to be” anything more than what I was. I didn’t want my blackness divvied up or deconstructed any more than it has already been, not just in my lifetime but in the history of the Creole people of Louisiana I descend from…

Read the entire article here.

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Bodies complexioned: Human variation and racism in early modern English culture, c. 1600–1750

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Monographs, Religion, United Kingdom on 2019-03-26 01:20Z by Steven

Bodies complexioned: Human variation and racism in early modern English culture, c. 1600–1750

Manchester University Press
May 2019
304 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-5261-3448-6
eBook ISBN: 978-1-5261-3450-9

Mark S. Dawson, Lecturer in Early Modern History
Australian National University, Canberra

Bodies complexioned

  • Challenges received wisdom regarding early modern conceptions of human physiology and their implications for social stratification
  • Demonstrates how assumptions concerning the causes of bodily diversity influenced English perceptions of non-Anglophone peoples
  • Uses diverse sources, both manuscript (letters, journals, commonplace books) and print (almanacs, newspapers, playbooks, sermons)
  • Makes a significant contribution to the history of embodiment and social inequality

Bodily contrasts – from the colour of hair, eyes and skin to the shape of faces and skeletons – allowed the English of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to discriminate systematically among themselves and against non-Anglophone groups. Making use of an array of sources, this book examines how early modern English people understood bodily difference. It demonstrates that individuals’ distinctive features were considered innate, even as discrete populations were believed to have characteristics in common, and challenges the idea that the humoral theory of bodily composition was incompatible with visceral inequality or racism. While ‘race’ had not assumed its modern valence, and ‘racial’ ideologies were still to come, such typecasting nonetheless had mundane, lasting consequences. Grounded in humoral physiology, and Christian universalism notwithstanding, bodily prejudices inflected social stratification, domestic politics, sectarian division and international relations.


  • Introduction
  • 1 Contemplating Christian temperaments
  • 2 Nativities established
  • 3 Bodies emblazoned
  • 4 Identifying the differently humoured
  • 5 Distempered skin and the English abroad
  • 6 National identities, foreign physiognomies, and the advent of whiteness
  • Conclusion
  • Index
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Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2019-03-25 14:20Z by Steven

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

May 2019
172 pages
138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Hardback ISBN: 9781509526390
Paperback ISBN: 9781509526406
Open eBook ISBN: 9781509526437

Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies
Princeton University

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce white supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Far from a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, Benjamin argues that automation has the potential to hide, speed, and even deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity: by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of tool – a technology designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice that is part of the architecture of everyday life.

This illuminating guide into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements provides conceptual tools to decode tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

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The Franklin Institute Speaker Series: Does Race Exist? (9/12/18)

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Videos on 2019-02-25 02:46Z by Steven

The Franklin Institute Speaker Series: Does Race Exist? (9/12/18)

The Franklin Institute
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

On September 12, 2018, as part of The Franklin Institute Speaker Series, University of Pennsylvania professors Sarah Tishkoff and Dorothy Roberts joined The Franklin Institute’s chief bioscientist Jayatri Das for a program titled “Does Race Exist? Exploring the Future of Genetics, Ancestry, and Medicine.”

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The Problems With Raced Based Medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Videos on 2019-02-25 01:39Z by Steven

The Problems With Raced Based Medicine


Abbie Arce

Race is often used in medicine to evaluate symptoms, make diagnoses, and decide on a course of care. These systems of evaluation are often inaccurate representations of reality, based on stereotypes.

For example, minorities are much less likely to be prescribed pain medication based on these kinds of preconceived notions about race. This type of race-based medicine has a way of blinding doctors to other more important factors such as an individual’s family or social history, symptoms, or related illnesses…

Read the entire article here.

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Skin Color and the Nature of Science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2019-02-19 20:59Z by Steven

Skin Color and the Nature of Science

The American Biology Teacher
Volume 80, Number 3 (March 2018)
page 163
DOI: 10.1525/abt.2018.80.3.163

Douglas Allchin, Lecturer, History of Science and Technology
Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science
University of Minnesota

Skin color is the trait most commonly associated with race. Consider just the “black” in the Black Lives Matter name or the “white” in white nationalist rallies. Skin color and the concept of race are ideologically charged—and socially divisive. But scientifically, what is the nature of this relationship?

A study led by Sarah Tishkoff published not long ago in Science contradicts many widespread views of skin color and further dispels the very concept of human races in biology. The group identified at least eight genes for skin color, but the genes do not cluster neatly into predictable groups, or races. They further found that the genes do not align with conventional racial groups:

  • The same depigmentation gene that led to “white” skin in the lineage of most Europeans (SLC24A5) is also common in East Africa, where skin color is much darker.
  • Another pair of genes linked to lighter skin, hair, and eye color among Europeans actually originated in Africa, where among the San people in southern Africa, it also contributes to lighter skin tones.
  • By contrast, a gene for darker pigmentation now common in Africa appears to be widespread in non-African groups as well: Indians, Melanesians, and Australian Aborigines.
  • Some darker skin colors result not by increasing dark pigments but by reducing yellow and red pigments.

The routes to skin color are many and varied, and not exclusively determinant of any geographic or ancestral group. Trying to define race by skin color genetics is hardly “black and white.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Testing Common Misconceptions about the Nature of Human Racial Variation

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, Teaching Resources, United States on 2019-02-19 19:29Z by Steven

Testing Common Misconceptions about the Nature of Human Racial Variation

The American Biology Teacher
Volume 79 Number 7 (September 2017)
pages 538-543
DOI: 10.1525/abt.2017.79.7.538

Amelia R. Hubbard, Associate Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Wright State University, Dayton Ohio

Race is a hot-button topic in American society, but one that needs to be addressed in the biological science curriculum. This paper examines how college students in a large introductory course came to understand race through the exploration of four key concepts about the nature of human biological and genetic variation. Using clicker data collected from four courses (n = 296), change in starting and ending understanding of content was compared using paired t-tests and mean difference scores. Results indicate statistically significant improvement in student understanding of common fallacies of the “biological race concept” after a single exposure to content.

Read or purchase the article here.

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‘Race is not biological, it’s a social construct’: Scientists say ethnicity does NOT determine health risks – and doctors who say so are just fueling ‘racial prejudice’

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2019-02-19 14:24Z by Steven

‘Race is not biological, it’s a social construct’: Scientists say ethnicity does NOT determine health risks – and doctors who say so are just fueling ‘racial prejudice’

The Daily Mail

Mia De Graaf, Health Editor
Washington, D.C.

Researchers presented papers at a conference this week on race and genetics. This graph, presented by Brian Donovan at BSCS Science Learning says we often see race as disparate circles in a Venn diagram. Actually, he and other say, it’s more like circles on top of each other.
  • New research adds fuel to the firey debate about race and genetics
  • Experts told a conference we should not use race as a risk factor for health
  • They say differences between racial groups are minimal and differences within groups are huge

Race is not a legitimate category to use in medicine, top scientists declared at the world’s biggest science conference this week.

In the US, African Americans are told to watch out for hypertension, white people for multiple sclerosis, Asians for heart disease, Hispanics for diabetes, and so on.

But on Friday, leading biologists said those general warnings are based on ‘bad science’ and do no more than fuel ‘racial prejudice’.

Among them, anthropologist Keith Hunley of the University of New Mexico presented a new map of genomes around the world, finding few differences between the clusters of racial groups that are often cited in medical research.

By lumping people into distinct broad categories, he and others warned, we risk ‘hyping’ certain inherited health risks for some and underestimating them for others – while sewing division, stereotypes and ignorance within society…

‘We have this notion that there are variants that are unique to certain groups, that there are genes that are unique to certain groups. And that’s almost never the case,’ Dr Hunley said as he described his presented his paper at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference…

Read the entire article here.

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What’s DNA Got to Do with It

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2019-02-17 18:09Z by Steven

What’s DNA Got to Do with It

The Progressive: A voice for peace, social justice, and the common good

Starita Smith
Denton, Texas


I see similarities between Elizabeth Warren’s situation and that of many black people.

As U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., campaigns for a possible 2020 presidential run, she reminds me of some long-standing issues about racial identification.

Warren, whom President Donald Trump has pejoratively labeled “Pocahontas” for claiming she has American Indian heritage, took a DNA test to prove it. When the results showed she has hardly any, she was criticized for falsely claiming native ancestry. Some speculate this may hurt her presidential aspirations.

Warren’s predicament points up the historical, legal and cultural arbitrariness of racial categories. For example, if Warren had proclaimed she had even one African ancestor, she would be defined as black legally and socially in most of the U.S. That’s because our nation uses the one-drop rule, or hypodescent, as the definition of who is black…

…The rule has been used in court repeatedly. One of the most famous cases involved Susie Guillory Phipps, a Louisiana woman, who presumed she and all her ancestors were white, yet when she tried to get a passport, she discovered that she was listed as black on her birth certificate. According to The New York Times, because she had a black ancestor – an enslaved woman, 222 years back in her family history – she was black…

Read the entire article here.

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Part I: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Oceania, Slavery, United States on 2019-02-16 02:35Z by Steven

Part I: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan

Radiant Roots, Boricua Branches: Musings on My Tri-racial Black and Puerto Rican Ancestry.

Teresa Vega

Map of Indian Ocean Countries

This blog post is dedicated to my M23 Malagasy ancestors who survived the Middle Passage and made it to New York and New Jersey. This is Part I of a two part series and is focused on my family’s Malagasy ancestry. My next blog post will discuss how my ancestors arrived in New York based on the actions of unscrupulous NY merchants and pirates.

About Madagascar and DNA

Over the past decade, there have been numerous studies done that describe the origins of the Malagasy, the people of Madagascar. For example, in 2005, Hurles et al. discussed the dual origins of the Malasy people as being Southeast Asian and East African. His study was followed by one done in 2009 by Sergio Tofanelli et al. In this article, they wrote:

“Our results confirm that admixture of Malagasy was due to the encounter of people surfing the extreme edges of two of the broadest historical waves of language expansion: the Austronesian and Bantu expansions. In fact, all Madagascan living groups show amixture of uni-parental lineages typical present in African and Southeast Asian populations with only a minor contribution of Y lineages with different origins. Two observations suggest that the Y lineages with “another origin” entered the island in recent times: 1) they are particularly frequent in the Tanosy area (Fort Dauphin), and around Antananarivo, where commercial networks and the slave trade had a focus; 2) they matched with haplogroups typical of present Indo-European (Europeans) and Arabic speaking (Somali) people.”.

In addition, a 2012 study by Cox, et al. noted that most Malagasy people can trace their mtDNA back to 30 Indonesian women who made up the founding population of Madagascar. Given the fact that Southeast Asian Y-DNA was also found among the Malagasy, it is assumed that there were also some Indonesian men among this group of women. These women went on to have children with the Indonesian men present as well as men from Africa. Later migrations from Africa also included Southeast African Bantu mtDNA haplogroups from north of the Zambezi River. In 2013, Melanie Capredon et al. also discussed the Arab-Islamic contribution to the Malagasy gene pool as a result of Indian Ocean slave trade…

Read the entire article here.

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