Genomics, Racial Medicine, and Neoracism

Friday, 14 February 2014
Regency B (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Joseph Graves Jr. , University of North Carolina, Greensboro , Greensboro, NC
Color-blind racism is an ideology in which persons of the dominant socially-defined race (European Americans) claim that racism is no longer the central factor determining the life chances of persons of non-European descent (particularly dark-skinned individuals of African descent.) They argue that instead of the ongoing institutional and individual racism of American society; that non-racial factors such as market dynamics, naturally occurring phenomena, and the cultural attitudes of minorities themselves are the main causal factors of their social subordination. In addition to social subordination, African Americans and other ethnic/racial groups also display pronounced patterns of health disparity (measured by increased morbidity and mortality rates) compared to European Americans. With the development of modern genomics techniques an increasingly genomic determinism narrative is developing around these health disparities. This narrative is particularly influential in biomedical research and clinical practice despite the growing consensus that anatomically-modern humans does not have biological races, and certainly if there are biological races that such races do not match American socially-defined categories. This talk will outline the nature of human genomic variation, why that variation does not justify the classification of biological races within the species, but also why knowledge of genomic differences between populations alone is insufficient to address their patterns of health disparity.  Furthermore it will explain why membership in a socially-defined race has real biological consequences; including reducing the mental and physical well-being of the socially-subordinated.