Against racial medicine

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Abstract:

Some scholars claim that recent studies of human genetic variation validate the existence of human biological races and falsify the idea that human races are socially constructed misconceptions. They assert that analyses of DNA polymorphisms unambiguously partition individuals into groups that are very similar to lay conceptions of race. Furthermore, they propose that this partitioning allows us to identify specific loci that can explain contemporary health disparities between the supposed human races. From this, it appears that racial medicine has risen again. In this essay Graves and Rose construct a case against racial medicine. Biological races in other species are strongly differentiated genetically. Because human populations do not have such strong genetic differentiation, they are not biological races. Nonetheless, the lack of population genetic knowledge among biomedical researchers has led to spuriously racialized human studies. But human populations are not genetically disjoint. Social dominance may lead to medical differences between socially constructed races. In order to resolve these issues, medicine should take both social environment and population genetics into account, instead of dubious races’ that inappropriately conflate the two.

Keywords: biomedicine; genetics; human classification; race; racial medicine; racial profiling

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00313220601020189

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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