Proving My Blackness

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-19 18:24Z by Steven

Proving My Blackness

The New York Times Magazine
2015-05-24

Mat Johnson

I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. My parents divorced when I was 4, and I was raised mostly by my black mom, in a black neighborhood of Philadelphia, during the Black Power movement. I put my dashiki on one arm at a time like every other black boy, but I was haunted by the moments I’d be out with my mother and other black people would look at me as if I were a cuckoo egg accidentally dropped in their nest. The contrast between “blackness” and how I looked was so stark that I often found myself sifting through archaic, pre-20th-century African-American racial definitions to find a word that fit me. Mulatto, 50 percent African. Quadroon, 25 percent African. Octoroon, 12.5 percent African. The next stop down, at 6.25 percent African, was mustefino. I’d never heard anyone call himself mustefino, and I didn’t want to personally relaunch that brand.

Some people wondered why, in a society that represses black people, I would even want to be black. But I never wanted to be black. I was black. What I wanted was to retain my connection to my heritage, my community, my family. To my mom. And I wanted proof. So last summer, after exhausting my attempt at amateur genealogy, I spit into a test tube for a DNA test. Only then did I realize, in a panic, that my life of racial ambiguity would soon be over…

Read the entire article here.

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The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-05-18 16:52Z by Steven

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 46, Number 1, Summer 2015
pages 109-111

Ruth Clifford Engs, Professor Emeritus of Applied Health Science
Indiana University, Bloomington

Sussman, Robert Wald, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

Sussman’s stated purpose in the introduction to this book is to “describe the history of our myth of race and racism” (3). However, a few pages later, he admits that he has not done archival research himself but instead has “depended upon the published works of many historians, biographers, and philosophers” (9). In other words, he is basing his premises upon secondary sources that may have their own biases. He does not present a hypothesis or even a research question but boldly states what he is trying to find and backs up his thesis with interpretations that support it. This methodology could be considered historiographical research. However, rarely does he compare the interpretation of one historian with that of another in an objective manner or compare interpretations from one time period to those from another, as other historiographical researchers usually do. Researchers in the past, or present, who do not agree with his conclusions are considered “racists” or part of “the eugenic bigot brigade.” The research methods in Sussman’s work cannot be deemed historical precisely because it uses few primary sources.

Sussman suggests that for a number of years, most researchers in the fields of biology, anthropology, and genetics have agreed that biological “races” do not exist among modern humans and that race is a cultural construct, albeit with phenotypical differences among population groups. In this work, you “can’t tell a book by its cover” or, in this case, its title, since the book’s main emphasis is the evolution of the nineteenth-century hereditarian and early twentieth-century eugenics movements and its leaders and detractors into contemporary times. The book focuses on what Sussman perceives to be “racist” researchers and organizations—those who suggest the possibility of biological differences between human population groups. It glorifies the anthropological school of Franz Boas and discusses the hidden agenda of obscure philanthropic groups to re-institute immigration-restriction reform or rescind voting rights from minorities in contemporary American society.

Chapter I introduces two early concepts of race since the Middle Ages that recur throughout the book—the pre-Adamite (polygenism) and degenerate (monogenism) theories. The pre-Adamites believed that races, other than whites, were created before Adam and Eve and that they were biologically fixed. Degenerate theory suggested that environment influenced “racial” characteristics, and that all humans were created by God, though non-whites were inferiors who needed guidance from whites. The chapter discusses the many early eighteenth-and nineteenth-century scientists and thinkers who embraced these various theories, including John Locke, Carl Linnaeus, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Arthur de Gobineau, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, and Francis Galton, among others.

Chapter 2 and 3 detail the early twentieth-century, American eugenics movement with a focus on various leaders, including Madison Grant, Charles Davenport, Henry Osborn, Harry Laughlin, and Henry Goddard, discussing their influence on the immigration-restriction movement, iq tests, and negative eugenics, characterized by sterilization. Sussman also covers such organizations as the Eugenics Records Office and the Galton Society, as well as international eugenic conferences and related issues. In his opinion, the entire eugenics movement amounts to “blatant racism” (85). He is silent about the fact that many aspects of the eugenics movement were intertwined with early twentieth-century public-health measures that sought to improve the health of the American people—regardless of ethnicity—by raising public awareness of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol/drug abuse and by promoting exercise, clean water, good nutrition, personal hygiene, healthy children, immunization, etc.

Chapter 4, in which Sussman shows the interlinking of American with German eugenics, portrays the various leaders of the German eugenics movement, including Ernst Rüdin, Eugen Fischer, Fritz Lenz, Alfred Ploetz, and Otmar von Verschurer, through the end of Nazi Germany and World War II. Chapter 5 treats Boas’ development of the concept of culture and its effect on human populations. Chapter 6 goes into greater detail about cultural anthropology and covers the conflict between various schools of thought, each side accusing the other of not doing true science.

The remainder of the book examines the downfall of the eugenics movement in the United States and the acceptance of culture…

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The Case for Black Doctors

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-18 02:19Z by Steven

The Case for Black Doctors

The New York Times
2015-05-15

Damon Tweedy, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. — IN virtually every field of medicine, black patients as a group fare the worst. This was one of my first and most painful lessons as a medical student nearly 20 years ago.

The statistics that made my stomach cramp back then are largely the same today: The infant mortality rate in the black population is twice that of whites. Black men are seven times more likely than white men to receive a diagnosis of H.I.V. and more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer. Black women have nearly double the obesity rate of white women and are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black people experience much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and stroke. The list goes on and on.

The usual explanations for these health disparities — poverty, poor access to medical care and unhealthy lifestyle choices, to name a few — are certainly valid, but the longer I’ve practiced medicine, the more I’ve come to appreciate a factor that is less obvious: the dearth of black doctors. Only around 5 percent of practicing physicians are black, compared with more than 13 percent of Americans overall.

As a general rule, black patients are more likely to feel comfortable with black doctors. Studies have shown that they are more likely to seek them out for treatment, and to report higher satisfaction with their care. In addition, more black doctors practice in high-poverty communities of color, where physicians are relatively scarce…

…Another time, I worked with a young woman who struggled with her biracial identity. Her black father had been abusive to her white mother when she was a child, and she found herself both afraid of and hostile toward black men. Because she physically resembled her father in many ways, she had also turned these negative feelings inward. Not surprisingly, her initial impression of me was unfavorable, but a friend encouraged her to come back to see me…

Read the entire review here.

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DNA survey finds all humans are 99.9pc the same

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-05-11 15:36Z by Steven

DNA survey finds all humans are 99.9pc the same

The Telegraph
2002-12-20

Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Whether you hail from Surbiton, Ulan Bator or Nairobi, your genetic make-up is strikingly similar to that of every other person on Earth, an analysis concludes today.

Although scientists have long recognised that, despite physical differences, all human populations are genetically similar, the new work concludes that populations from different parts of the world share even more genetic similarities than previously assumed.

All humans are 99.9 per cent identical and, of that tiny 0.1 per cent difference, 94 per cent of the variation is among individuals from the same populations and only six per cent between individuals from different populations….

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals, Difference, and the Politics of Life

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-05-10 17:09Z by Steven

Racial Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals, Difference, and the Politics of Life

Ashgate
September 2014
148 pages
234 x 156 mm
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4094-4498-5
eBook PDF ISBN: 978-1-4094-4499-2
eBook ePUB ISBN: 978-1-4724-0107-6

Jonathan Xavier Inda, Associate Professor of Latina/Latino Studies
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

In the contemporary United States, matters of life and health have become key political concerns. Important to this politics of life is the desire to overcome racial inequalities in health; from heart disease to diabetes, the populations most afflicted by a range of illnesses are racialized minorities. The solutions generally proposed to the problem of racial health disparities have been social and environmental in nature, but in the wake of the mapping of the human genome, genetic thinking has come to have considerable influence on how such inequalities are problematized. Racial Prescriptions explores the politics of dealing with health inequities through targeting pharmaceuticals at specific racial groups based on the idea that they are genetically different. Drawing on the introduction of BiDil to treat heart failure among African Americans, this book contends that while racialized pharmaceuticals are ostensibly about fostering life, they also raise thorny questions concerning the biologization of race, the reproduction of inequality, and the economic exploitation of the racial body.

Engaging the concept of biopower in an examination of race, genetics and pharmaceuticals, Racial Prescriptions will appeal to sociologists, anthropologists and scholars of science and technology studies with interests in medicine, health, bioscience, inequality and racial politics.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Racial politics of life
  • 2. The making of BiDil
  • 3. Biosocial citizenship
  • 4. Enlightened geneticization of race
  • 5. Racial vital value
  • 6. Neoliberalization of life
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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UCLA researchers say Japanese-Americans’ healthier golden years could be a model for other seniors

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-05 17:42Z by Steven

UCLA researchers say Japanese-Americans’ healthier golden years could be a model for other seniors

UCLA Newsroom
University of California, Los Angeles
2015-04-29

Venetia Lai

Nearly 1 in 4 Japanese-Americans are 65 and older — nearly twice the proportion of seniors in the overall U.S. population. The facts that they are likelier to live longer than other Americans and are healthier when they age make Japanese-Americans an important subject of research by health policy experts — and could provide clues about how all Americans can age, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Using California Health Interview Survey data from 2003 to 2012, the study found that elderly Japanese-Americans had lower risks for nine of 15 health indicators than other Asian and other racial and ethnic groups in California. Older Japanese-Americans, however, did have higher rates of arthritis and hypertension than seniors in other racial and ethnic groups.

“Japanese-Americans provide a window into our future,” said Ying-Ying Meng, lead author of the study and co-director of the center’s Chronic Disease Program. “They show us one vision of how our nation can age and can help us prepare for the enormous generational shift ahead.”

The report, which was funded by Keiro Senior HealthCare, examines three categories of Japanese in California: Those who identify as being “only” Japanese — typically with parents who both were Japanese; those who identify as being mixed-race; and those who identified as being Japanese in some way…

Read the entire article here.

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Ancient DNA Tells a New Human Story

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2015-05-04 18:08Z by Steven

Ancient DNA Tells a New Human Story

The Wall Street Journal
2015-05-01

Matt Ridley

Armed with old bones and new DNA sequencing technology, scientists are getting a much better understanding of the prehistory of the human species, writes Matt Ridley

Imagine what it must have been like to look through the first telescopes or the first microscopes, or to see the bottom of the sea as clearly as if the water were gin. This is how students of human prehistory are starting to feel, thanks to a new ability to study ancient DNA extracted from bodies and bones in archaeological sites.

Low-cost, high-throughput DNA sequencing—a technique in which millions of DNA base-pairs are automatically read in parallel—appeared on the scene less than a decade ago. It has already transformed our ability to see just how the genes of human beings, their domestic animals and their diseases have changed over thousands or tens of thousands of years.

The result is a crop of new insights into precisely what happened to our ancestors: when and where they migrated, how much they intermarried with those they met along the way and how their natures changed as a result of evolutionary pressures. DNA from living people has already shed some light on these questions. Ancient DNA has now dramatically deepened—and sometimes contradicted—those answers, providing a much more dynamic view of the past.

It turns out that, in the prehistory of our species, almost all of us were invaders and usurpers and miscegenators. This scientific revelation is interesting in its own right, but it may have the added benefit of encouraging people today to worry a bit less about cultural change, racial mixing and immigration.

Consider two startling examples of how ancient DNA has solved long-standing scientific enigmas. Tuberculosis in the Americas today is derived from a genetic strain of the disease brought by European settlers. That is no great surprise. But there’s a twist: 1,000-year-old mummies found in Peru show symptoms of TB as well. How can this be—500 years before any Europeans set foot in the Americas?…

Read the entire article here.

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Genes Don’t Cause Racial-Health Disparities, Society Does

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-27 19:24Z by Steven

Genes Don’t Cause Racial-Health Disparities, Society Does

The Atlantic
2015-04-13

Jason Silverstein, Teaching Fellow in Anthropology
Harvard University

Researchers are looking in the wrong place: White people live longer not because of their DNA but because of inequality.

On April 24, 2003, shortly after the completion of the human genome project, its director Francis Collins and his team posed 15 grand challenges to the scientific community. They dared researchers to harness the genome to crack puzzles of biology, health, and society. In particular, they called for genome-based tools to close health disparities. Since then, the United States has pumped more than $1 billion a year into genomics research. What do we have to show for it?

“What we found in the literature published from 2007 to 2013 was basically nothing,” said Jay Kaufman, the lead author of the first study to examine available genetic data for evidence that explains a major racial-health disparity. For many years, researchers speculated that what they couldn’t explain about disparities must be the fingerprint of some mysterious genetic component. But since they are now able to scan the entire genome, this speculation appears both lazy and wrong. When it comes to why many black people die earlier than white people in the U.S., Kaufman and his colleagues show we’ve been looking for answers in the wrong places: We shouldn’t be looking in the twists of the double helix, but the grinding inequality of the environment.

It is no secret that a longer life is a white privilege in the U.S. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that white men lived more than four years longer than black men, and white women lived more than three years longer than black women. The main reason for the racial mortality gap is heart disease. “There’s a huge number of years of life lost because some people have the black life expectancy and not the white life expectancy,” Kaufman said. “It’s killing people prematurely on the basis of race.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Breast cancer and racialized medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-16 22:17Z by Steven

Breast cancer and racialized medicine

Race, Racism & Human Genetics IDS 243: Race, Racism, and Human Genetics
Willamette University
Salem, Oregon
2014-11-28

Stephanie Matsuura

Katie Herr

Camille Debreczeny

Race, Racism & Human Genetics IDS 243: Race, Racism, and Human Genetics is an interdisciplinary course taught at Willamette University by Emily Drew and Chris Smith. This blog represents the work of students enrolled in the course, and their reactions to current scholarly and popular work relating to the biology of human difference.

Racial disparities in breast cancer are often attributed to biology uncritically, without considering social factors. In many genetic studies, rhetorical framing of human diversity conflates differences between populations with racial categories. An unconscious complicity in the racial worldview informs these studies, which are then used to justify racialized explanations for disparities in breast cancer. Many researchers recognize that individualized, complete genome analysis would provide better care for patients, but lack the technological and economic resources to make this a realistic goal. Instead they rely on racialized medicine, which has serious consequences for women of color with breast cancer.

Racialized medicine occurs when the U.S. racial worldview goes unchallenged in the way it shapes medical research, health care practices, and public health policy. It is a way of making inequalities in health and illness seem natural by erroneously linking them to “innate” and “biological” differences between racial groups. In the U.S., women of color are disproportionately affected by breast cancer. Black women in particular have higher breast cancer mortality rates than any other racial/ethnic group in the country (Happe 2006). In this blog we aim to cover the main possible explanations for observed racial disparities in both incidence and prognosis of breast cancer. Studies have attributed racial disparities in both incidence and prognosis to the genetics underlying breast cancer as well as to social factors…

Read the entire article here.

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IDS 243 Race, Racism, & Human Genetics

Posted in Course Offerings, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-04-16 21:15Z by Steven

IDS 243 Race, Racism, & Human Genetics

Willamette University
Salem, Oregon
Fall 2014

What accounts for human difference, and what does the biology of human variation tell us about race and the “life changes” of racial groups in contemporary society? This course examines the relationship between genes, geography, skin color and what we have come to understand as “race.” It will focus upon patterns of human genetic variation and consider how the completion of the Human Genome Project and the increasing availability of genomic data have changes our understanding of human population genetics. It will also address the historical role of science in taking the socially-constructed concept of race and turning it into scientific “fact,” and explore how this past history both shapes and constrains contemporary research in the biology of human diversity. The course will consider contemporary case studies in which race becomes—and is ascribed to—biology in ways that both reflect and contribute to dominant racial ideology. By bringing together the research about race from the natural and social sciences, the course seeks to understand how biological and social factors interact to shape racial reality and explores the political and social implications for scientific inquiry.

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