The Biological Expression of Race Relations

In this unit we see how race becomes affected by biological factors. More specifically, we focus on how race takes biological (gene) form in predisposition to diseases, health and illnesses. There are two main arguments revolving this theme. One side argues that race categorization is important for the future of medical diagnoses. An example from the readings supporting this argument was the “Slavery Hypothesis” which states that “an exaggerated hypertensive response to salt in black Americans might be traced to selective mortality during the period of Atlantic slavery.” So far, there has not been much concrete data which can prove this hypothesis completely true. However, the hypothesis has become popular and highly discussed in the media and hypertension literature. The other main argument regarding race and biology is that certain races are more predisposed to some diseases because of one of two reasons. 1) Many different factors, including the environment, can predispose or inhibit some diseases or illnesses. 2) The socioeconomic status of some races affects the medical care available to them. For example, a black man who lives in poverty will be more predisposed to getting prostate cancer than a middle class white man because he does not have access to proper healthcare.

Personally, I agree with this last argument. I was just in Peru doing community service in a center for older adults. In this place people ranging from 50-80 years old live under the poverty line. Most of them do not even have enough money to buy Advil. Most of them are Incan descendants and some do not even speak Spanish but Quechua (Incan language). Due to their lack of access to health care many of them suffer from diseases which can be easily prevented if treated under the proper care. Also, something which I found very striking is that some of them are 50 years old but become so sick that their physical appearance seems around 70s. They suffer from illnesses which have high survival rates for many people with access to healthcare.

In conclusion, I believe that evidence fails to show that biology is affected by race but rather shows what Nancy Krieger sums up as “health disparities being characterized as the biologic expression of race relations.”

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