8.14.2009

Racial Differences


A useful element of racial differences, courtesy of the Freakonomics blog's interview of 23 and Me founder Anne Wojcicki:

A lot of the difficulty in talking about race has been a lack of agreement on what “race” means. In the past, the idea of pure races also included an ordering of certain races as inherently superior to others. We reject this idea absolutely. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no genetic differences between populations of different ancestral origin. A few of our features use the genome-wide data of reference populations from around the world to trace the origin of pieces of an individual’s genome. Some customers have complex patterns depending on where their ancestors originated. These reference populations aren’t “races”; they’re representative samples of peoples who have lived in a single place for a very long time and have thus accumulated different sets of genetic variants over time.

Brown v. Board of Education stated that "separate" was inherently unequal; but "different" does not have to be. Of course, "different" can be used to subjugate, insult, or denigrate one type over another; but it can also be used to identify risk factors, target treatments, and provide a more customized quality of care.

Now, "representative samples of peoples who have lived in a single place for a very long time and have thus accumulated different sets of genetic variants over time" is a very long descriptor, and, unfortunately, "race" is a very loaded one. But hopefully, we can figure out ways to accept and even celebrate our "differentnesses" - think of the salad bowl and not the melting pot.
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