Penn symposium tackles race, science, and society

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-06 04:26Z by Steven

Penn symposium tackles race, science, and society

Penn Current: News Ideas and conversations from the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
2014-04-03

Katherine Unger Baillie

Is race a biological category? How does race figure into scientific research, clinical practice, and the development and use of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals? And what can we learn from historical investigations into race that will inform today’s scientific and medical inquiries?

These are among the complex questions that will be addressed by panels of experts during the April 11 symposium, “The Future of Race: Regression or Revolution?”

The event is being co-hosted by Penn’s new Program on Race, Science and Society (PRSS), which is based in the Center for Africana Studies, and the Penn Museum. The Center for Africana Studies is also co-sponsoring the symposium. The event will be held in the Museum’s Widener Lecture Hall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The symposium is free and open to the public, though registration is required…

Read the entire article here.

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Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race and Gender – Dorothy Roberts

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-03-07 17:09Z by Steven

Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race and Gender – Dorothy Roberts

University of California, Berkeley
Alumni House
Friday, 2014-03-07, 17:00-19:30 PST (Local Time)

Join us for a discussion with Prof. Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania Law School, author of Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century.  Lecture organized by the group, Politics of Biology & Race, a UC Center for New Racial Studies working group, and co-sponsored by the Center for Race & Gender and the Haas Center for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

Dorothy Roberts, an acclaimed scholar of race, gender and the law, joined the University of Pennsylvania as its 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Law School where she also holds the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander chair.

Her pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Her major books include Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century (New Press, 2011); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997).

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On Race, Medicine, and Reproduction: An Interview with Dorothy Roberts

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Interviews, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-02-20 07:59Z by Steven

On Race, Medicine, and Reproduction: An Interview with Dorothy Roberts

Bluestockings Magazine
Brown University
February 2014 (2014-02-14)

Dorothy Roberts is a scholar, professor, author and social justice advocate, and currently the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She has published a range of groundbreaking articles and books analyzing issues of law, race, gender, health and social inequality, including Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (1997), Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (2002) and, most recently Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2012). When she visited Brown University to discuss her latest work on race and health inequities, Bluestockings Magazine had the privilege of interviewing Prof. Roberts beforehand.

Sophia Seawell [Co-Editor-in-Chief]: To begin with, I was hoping that for those of us who aren’t able to come to your lecture if you could tell us what you’ll be speaking about and how it fits into what you’ve been working on lately.

Dorothy Roberts: I’m going to be talking about what I’m calling race medicine, which is the practice of treating diseases according to race both by using the notion that people of different races have different diseases and also that they experience common diseases differently. I argue that you can trace that practice in the United States from slavery, where the idea that Africans have different diseases was used to justify enslaving them, and also explained resistance to enslavement as a form of mental illness.

Race medicine has been used to treat social inequality as if it’s natural, and that’s a way to justify repression and to steer attention away from the need for social change. And so I show how those concepts and strategies that came out of slavery continue in contemporary medicine today, and how they’ve in fact been exacerbated by a new resurgence of the concept of biological races in genomic science, biomedical research, and medical practice.

So it’s a little bit of history, but I’m mostly looking at the way that treating disease as race-based and using that as a way to explain social inequality, especially racial inequality, has travelled across the centuries. We can’t believe that today, because we live in a liberal democracy and doctors say that they’re not racially biased, that we shouldn’t worry about it anymore.

SS: The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about race-based disease is high blood pressure in African Americans.

DR: I’ll use that example in my talk. I point out that it’s commonly thought among doctors and biomedical researchers that hypertension is higher in African Americans because of some innate difference—today it’s explained as a genetic difference—but actually these ideas originated before there was even knowledge of genetics, only now they’re cloaked in genetic terms.

I’ll mention a study conducted by a researcher named Richard Cooper who looked at a number of global studies, did a meta-analysis and discovered that in fact across theses studies people of African descent have a lower rate of hypertension than white people. It’s just in the United States that Blacks have a higher rates than whites; Nigerians have a lower rate than the average of people of European descent around the world. That’s pretty strong evidence, and there’s lots of other evidence as well that to the extent that African Americans have higher rates of blood pressure in the U.S., it’s nothing innate. There have been all sorts of biological theories—the salt hypothesis claimed that the Middle Passage weeded out certain genes and so those who survived it had a gene pool that predisposed them to hypertension. It doesn’t make sense! Because first of all, Jamaicans, whose ancestors also crossed the Atlantic, have a lower rate of hypertension than whites in the U.S.

SS: But we just won’t mention that!

DR: And I’ll talk about some other new fangled and ridiculous genetic explanations.

SS: I was also wondering, on a different note, about your experience in academia as a woman of color—specifically, since you do so much writing on race, medicine and science, if your work has ever been criticized because it’s “not objective” because it discusses race, or that you’re trying to “read race” into things.

DR: I’ve certainly gotten that response—pretty frequently in audiences when I talk about my most recent book, Fatal Invention, and especially if I’m talking to a group of physicians or people who are doing biomedical research. With genetic counselors I’ve also gotten a very defensive response. People feel you’re accusing them personally of racism and they want to defend their use of race in their practice and in their research. I’ve found that there’s this desire to hold on to biological racial concepts that is very disturbing to me. There’s a lot of resistance out there.

I’ve also spoken to very receptive audiences, and audiences that weren’t aware of this resurgence of concepts of biological concepts of race in science—what I call a new racial science—and many are very grateful to hear this information; they’re alarmed, but happy to hear about it.

Others believe that race is a political category if not a biological category, and that includes many scientists who understand that. So I’ve also been welcomed by some for my book, but there still is this resistance I’ve met and often the argument is “well, you just don’t understand the science.” But the thing is I’ve read many of these articles that claim to show that there are race-based genetic differences or that racial differences in health can be explained genetically and there’s so many flaws in them. Just simple flaws, like not defining what the scientist means by race…

SS: It’s just understood to be a natural category.

DR: They just use the term! They don’t explain how they decided who among their research subjects gets grouped in which race. Most of them use self-identification or come up with some made-up, invented way of determination… there are just so many flaws. They often control for just one socioeconomic variable and if they continue to see that race has an effect they leap to the conclusion that it must be genetic—which is also bad research, bad science. But the basic flaw is that they’re using a social category as if it was a biological category or a genetic category, and it isn’t. So the very basis of their hypothesis that genes cause health inequities, for example, is flawed. And then the methods of flawed on top of that…

Read the entire interview here.

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Advancing Health Through A Racial Lens: The New Biopolitics of Race, Health, and Justice

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-02-20 05:28Z by Steven

Advancing Health Through A Racial Lens: The New Biopolitics of Race, Health, and Justice

University of Maryland, College Park
Stamp Student Union
Banneker Room 2212
Thursday, 2014-02-20, 12:30-15:00 EST (Local Time)

Moderated by:

Dorothy Roberts J.D., Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

Dorothy Roberts holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics. Professor Roberts is author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (1997); Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (2002); and Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2011). Among her many public interest activities, Roberts serves as chair of the board of directors of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Distinguished University of Maryland Panelists:

“Racial Coping in African American Mothers & Adolescents”
Mia A. Smith Bynum, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Family Science

“Treating Difference: Race, Risk, and the Politics of HIV/AIDs Prevention”
Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

“Addressing Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease: Directions for the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act”
Gneisha Y. Dinwiddie, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of African American Studies

For more information, click here or here.

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New York Times and The American Riddle

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-18 15:44Z by Steven

New York Times and The American Riddle

Only-NeverInSweden
2013-09-03

Larry Lundgren
Linköping, Sweden

The [New York] Times accepted two comments on OpEd article by Charles Blow: “The Most Dangerous Negro.”

Here are the two books that I presently cite in comments on this and related articles

Prewitt, Kenneth, 2013, What is Your Race-The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans: Princeton University Press, Princeton

Roberts, Dorothy, 2011, Fatal Invention-How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century: The New Press, London

These are the two most important books on this subject that I have read. They should be read by every American professor who daily employs the nomenclature of the US Census Bureau classification of Americans…

Read the entire article here.

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Race Medicine: Treating Health Inequities from Slavery to the Genomic Age with Prof. Dorothy Roberts

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-10 17:35Z by Steven

Race Medicine: Treating Health Inequities from Slavery to the Genomic Age with Prof. Dorothy Roberts

Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
Brown University
Steven Robert ’62  Campus Center, Petteruti Lounge
75 Waterman Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02912
Tuesday, 2013-12-10, 17:30 EST (Local Time)

Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology; Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

Dorothy Roberts is the fourteenth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at University of Pennsylvania, where she holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics. Professor Roberts is the author of the award-winning books Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Random House/Pantheon, 1997) and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books/Civitas, 2002), as well as co-editor of six books on constitutional law and gender. She has also published more than eighty articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review. Her latest book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century, was published by the New Press in July 2011.

Professor Roberts has been a professor at Rutgers and Northwestern University, a visiting professor at Stanford and Fordham, and a fellow at Harvard University’s Program in Ethics and the Professions, Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Fulbright Program. She serves as chair of the board of directors of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, on the board of directors of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and on the advisory boards of the Center for Genetics and Society and the Family Defense Center. She also serves on the Standards Working Group of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (stem cell research). She recently received awards from the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the 2010 Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship.

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice with support from the Associate Provost for Diversity, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the Office of Medical Education, and the Science and Technology Studies Program.

For more information, click here.

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Loving v. Virginia as a Civil Rights Decision

Posted in Law, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-09 02:21Z by Steven

Loving v. Virginia as a Civil Rights Decision

Cosponsored by the Center for African American Studies and the Program in Law and Public Affairs
102 Jones Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey
Monday, 2013-12-09, 12:00-13:20 EST (Local Time)

Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology; Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

The Workshop in American Studies brings together students and faculty from the wide range of departments that contribute to the Program in American Studies. By encouraging a diversity of topics from researchers from a variety of departments, we hope the Workshop highlights the advantages of the “in-between” disciplinary space that American Studies inhabits at Princeton. Our goal is to provide a forum where presenters can receive feedback from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives and participants can be exposed to new methodologies and new topics for research. Moreover, we hope to foster a community of advanced undergraduates, graduate students and faculty who share in the common project of researching the American experience.

The format of the workshop is that the speaker introduces the paper for ten minutes and then we open up the floor to questions. Copies of the papers are made available outside the American Studies office, 42 McCosh Hall…

For more information and reservations, click here.

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Interracial Marriage and the Civil Rights Revolution: A Personal Journey

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-12-03 06:13Z by Steven

Interracial Marriage and the Civil Rights Revolution: A Personal Journey

The University of Pennsylvania Provost presents The Inaugural Provost’s Lecture on Diversity
University of Pennsylvania
Annenberg School Room 110
2013-11-13, 17:00-19:00 EST (Local Time)

Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology; Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

As far back as I can remember, my father was conducting research for a book on interracial marriage in Chicago.  He died without publishing the work to which he devoted his entire academic career.  Robert E.T. Roberts, an anthropologist at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, interviewed more than 600 black-white couples over a period of five decades.  He began in 1937 as a 22-year-old master’s student at University of Chicago, recording the life histories of interracial couples married as early as 1890.  He continued interviewing couples for his Ph.D. dissertation, completed in 1956, the year I was born.  Two years earlier, my father, who was white, married my mother, a black Jamaican immigrant who came to Roosevelt on a scholarship and accompanied him on interviews as his research assistant.  For the remainder of his career, he interviewed hundreds more couples—and then hundreds of their children—until he retired in 1986. 

When my father died in 2002, I inherited 25 boxes of his files on interracial marriage in Chicago—a treasure trove of rare interviews, newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, and handwritten notes.  I found in my possession an untapped archive of extraordinary potential to reveal insights into racial identity and relations in the United States, and I believe I am uniquely qualified to undertake this investigation.  I want to write the book my father never completed from my perspective—as his daughter, whose childhood was dominated by his passion for recording the stories of interracial couples; as the child of interracial parents, who grew up in Hyde Park during the social upheavals of the 1960s; and as a legal scholar and sociologist who has devoted her own career to the study of race and the elimination of racism…

For more information, click here.

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The Future of Race in America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-11-08 16:20Z by Steven

The Future of Race in America

The Root
2013-11-05

Jenée Desmond-Harris, Senior Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a three-part series. To read part 1, click here.

Will we ever abandon stereotypes? Will “people of color” act as a group? Here are four possible theories about where we are headed as a country.

(The Root)—When it comes to race in America, there’s no question that things are changing.

Here’s what we know for sure: The country is becoming more diverse. Half of kids under age 5 are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Non-Hispanic white Americans will almost certainly be outnumbered by everyone else over the next three decades. Americans who consider themselves multiracial are growing in numbers faster than any other group.

Then there’s the part that the census can’t measure—the stories that reveal that racial identity is getting more complicated and convoluted all the time: a teen who once called herself Latina “coming out” as black; a woman everyone thinks is Greek announcing that she’s biracial; the news that 12 percent of Jewish households consider themselves “multiracial or nonwhite”; a leading African-American history scholar’s discovery that he has 49 percent European ancestry…

…Is this a sign that we’re swiftly approaching an America in which we all look about the same, and we will dispense with the messy and imprecise exercise of putting one another into racial categories?

Almost certainly not. Experts agree on that.

So what are their predictions about the future of race in America? How might the ways in which we think about it and talk about it actually change in our lifetimes? If we’re not postracial—or even close—what are we? And where are we going?

The only real consensus about the answer to this complicated question is, it depends.

Here are four very different theories about the evolution of race in America and what exactly the meaningful changes that are within reach will require from all of us.

1. We could all finally reject the idea that biology divides human beings into five racial groups. But science isn’t enough. It will take a political movement.

Dorothy Roberts, author of Fatal Invention: How Politics, Science, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century, says it’s no longer a secret or even a little-known fact that what we think of as “race” is simply a set of political categories that were created to govern people.

According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Law professor, the information has been out since the scientists who mapped the human genome declared that racial differences didn’t exist at the genetic level.

Sure, says Roberts, race “uses various biological demarcations that help distinguish who belongs to one or another [group]. But those—skin color, hair color, the shape of the nose or the lips—are only part of what we use to determine what race someone is.” Thus, the same person’s racial identification could change with time, place and perspective—or even over a lifetime—and is impossible to pin down objectively in the way that good science would require…

…2. We might develop more accurate ways to describe our identities. But only if the census does it first.

Kenneth Prewitt, author of What Is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans, sees an American population rapidly outgrowing what he calls “the 18th-century, antique races” that currently appear on the census and other government forms.

But, he says, it’s difficult for people to identify themselves in nuanced ways—and even harder to make accurate social policy—when newspapers, statistics and accountings of disparities all use those federally mandated categories that fail to reflect the details of our actual experiences…

Read the entire article here.

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What’s Wrong with Race-Based Medicine?: Genes, Drugs, and Health Disparities

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-09-30 21:31Z by Steven

What’s Wrong with Race-Based Medicine?: Genes, Drugs, and Health Disparities

Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology
Volume 12, Issue 1 (Winter 2011)
pages 1-21

Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology; Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights
University of Pennsylvania

In June 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a historic decision: it approved the first pharmaceutical indicated for a specific race. BiDil, a combination drug that relaxes the blood vessels, was authorized to treat heart failure in self-identified black patients. BiDil had been tested in the African-American Heart Failure Trial (A-HeFT) launched in 2001. A-HeFT enrolled 1,050 subjects suffering from advanced heart failure, all self-identified African Americans. A-HeFT showed that BiDil worked; in fact, it worked so spectacularly that the trial was stopped ahead of schedule. BiDil in-creased survival by an astonishing 43 percent. Hospitalizations were reduced by 39 percent. It was a momentous accomplishment for Jay Cohn, the University of Minnesota cardiologist who invented BiDil and had pioneered vasodilators as an important treatment for heart failure.

Given evidence of BiDil’s efficacy, but little evidence that race mattered to its efficacy, the FDA should have made one of two decisions: reject the request for race-specific approval or approve BiDil for all heart failure patients, regardless of race. Instead, the FDA put race at the center of its decision, sparking controversy and paving the way for a new generation of racial medicines.

No one is complaining that BiDil is available to people who will benefit from it. The problem is that BiDil was made available on the basis of race. Its racial label elicited three types of criticism: scientific, commercial, and political. I will discuss the first two controversies en route to what I consider the main problem with race-based medicine, its political implications. By claiming that race, a political grouping, is important to the marketing of drugs and that race-based drugs can reduce health disparities, which are caused primarily by social inequality, those who promote racialized medicine have made it a political issue. Yet, having made these political claims, these very advocates answer criticism by saying that we must put aside social justice concerns in order to improve minority health. This article explains why marketing pharmaceuticals on the basis of race is more likely to worsen racial inequities than cure them…

Read the entire article here.

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