How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Who You Really Are

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-11-20 01:46Z by Steven

Who You Really Are

Council for Responsible Genetics
Volume 27, Issue 2 (May-July 2014)

Robert Pollack, Professor of Biological Sciences, Earth Institute Professor, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Lecturer in Psychiatry
Columbia University, New York, New York

Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law
Columbia University, New York, New York

“International Biosciences offer a broad range of DNA Testing services designed to provide indisputable answers to emotional questions….”

“Your story awaits – go find it…”

“Welcome to you.”

Oh the happy marketplace for genetic information! The hunt is on: From royal roots to hidden baby-daddies, to making sure you’re not accidentally related to any of those many, many Kardashians. The very definition of “ancestry” is freighted with social meaning. “Tracking” it tempts one to imaginary flights about inheritance, wealth, esteem, identity, purity of lineage – and correction! How we all long to be redeemed by such searches, released from the unfairly limited befoggery of what we actually know of ourselves. What bliss instead to follow our most deliciously arrogant, nakedly ambitious fantasies of some Mystery Me, some hitherto unspoken-of chromosomal configuration that will distinguish and redeem. Given that hunger, it isn’t hard to market DNA as a product, like cement, designed to fill in the gaps, and provide stick-um for the jigsaw puzzle of ourselves. Within that marketplace, the definition of DNA is not confined by science but rendered connotatively huge, larger than galaxies, unconfined, a universe of wildest imagination. Yearning. Cure. Immortality. Control. A golem created from the skeletons of the past to address anxiety about what will happen to the present body.

Yet the boring bottom line is that we are all doomed to be embarrassed by the vulgar commonality of our humanity. We are all alone, orphans, bastards, individuals, adopted, adapted, lost, sold down the river, rediscovered like Moses in the bulrushes. We are, not one of us, descendants of a pure untainted line…

Read the entire article here.

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Race in Contemporary Medicine

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-03-23 20:03Z by Steven

Race in Contemporary Medicine

208 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-41365-7

Edited by:

Sander L. Gilman

With the first patent being granted to “BiDil,” a combined medication that is deemed to be most effective for a specific “race,” African-Americans for a specific form of heart failure, the on-going debate about the effect of the older category of race has been renewed. What role should “race” play in the discussion of genetic alleles and populations today? The new genetics has seemed to make “race” both a category that is seen useful if not necessary, as The New York Times noted recently: “Race-based prescribing makes sense only as a temporary measure.” (Editorial, “Toward the First Racial Medicine,” November 13, 2004) Should one think about “race” as a transitional category that is of some use while we continue to explore the actual genetic makeup and relationships in populations? Or is such a transitional solution poisoning the actual research and practice.

Does “race” present both epidemiological and a historical problem for the society in which it is raised as well as for medical research and practice? Who defines “race”? The self-defined group, the government, the research funder, the researcher? What does one do with what are deemed “race” specific diseases such as “Jewish genetic diseases” that are so defined because they are often concentrated in a group but are also found beyond the group? Are we comfortable designating “Jews” or “African-Americans” as “races” given their genetic diversity? The book answers these questions from a bio-medical and social perspective.

This book was previously published as a special issue of Patterns of Prejudice.


  • Introduction: On Race and Medicine in Historical Perspective. Sander L. Gilman (Emory)
  • Reflections on Race and the Biologization of Difference. Katya Gibel Azoulay (Grinnell)
  • Against Racial Medicine. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. (North Carolina A&T State University) & Michael R. Rose (University of California, Irvine)
  • Blood and Stories: How Genomics is Rewriting Race, Medicine and Human History. Patricia Wald (Duke)
  • “Why are Genetic and Medical Researchers Accepting a Category Created by Slaveholders?” A Social History of the Reification of “Race” James Downs (Princeton)
  • Eugenics and the Racial Genome: Politics at the Molecular Level. Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell (University of Illinois – Chicago)
  • The Risky Gene: Epidemiology and the Evolution of Race. Philip Alcabes (Hunter College School of Health Sciences)
  • Folk Taxonomy, Prejudice and the Human Genome: Using Heritable Disease as a Jewish Ethnic Marker. Judith S. Neulander (Case Western Reserve University)
  • The price of science without moral constraints: German and American medicine before DNA and Today. Robert E. Pollack (Columbia)
  • Deadly Medicine Today: The Impossible Denials of Racial Medicine. C. Richard King (Washington State University)
  • Biobanks of a “Racial Kind”: Mining for Difference in the New Genetics. Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Stanford)
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