Scientific racism?

At one of the many journal clubs I regularly attend, the article we were discussing included Race in the demographics. I’ve been mulling over Race in medical articles for some time now and my belief, informed by my cultural values, indicates to me that this is ingrained racism. I asked members of the journal club what they thought and whether they thought it a useful metric to count. The responses were mostly around the article being from the US and that it reflects how most of the US population think of themselves (there was some awkwardness there).  Earlier in the week, I emailed a well respected epidemiologist and asked him what he thought, and he said that it is almost impossible to separate socio-economic and genetic factors . Race is a sociocultural concept that is used to classify humans by skin colour. It has been used to justify superiority of one group over another group. Ethnicity is expressing belongingness to a social group with similar cultural or national traditions. An ancestral group is the genetic link from an ancestor to descendants. Socio-economic groupings uses a persons position in society and is mainly based on occupation, industry or other professional activity. So what is a useful metric in medical research? Socio-economic grouping can indicate what food, health care, housing, education and other services a person has access to. Ancestral group can indicate who will suffer disease or other negative health outcomes due to genetic susceptibility. Race – what does that indicate? I suspect the use of race is a result of social conditioning and not intentional racism. It’s a curly question.

SAUER, N.J. FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE CONCEPT OF RACE: IF RACES DON’T EXIST, WHY ARE FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGISTS SO GOOD AT IDENTIFYING THEM? Soc.Sci.Med. 1992, Vol.34, No.2, pp.107-111.

Templeton AR. Biological races in humans. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2013 Sep;44(3):262-71. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010. Epub 2013 May 16.

Fujimura JH and Rajagopalan R. Different differences: The use of ‘genetic ancestry’ versus race in biomedical human genetic research. Soc Stud Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Feb 1.

Ousley S, Jantz R, Freid D. Understanding race and human variation: why forensic anthropologists are good at identifying race. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 May;139(1):68-76. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21006.

 

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