Week 6 Analytical Post

The connection between race, genetics, and health is one that I thought was a clear cut fact.  However, after reading the articles assigned to us this week, the only thing the is clear cut is that nothing is clear cut.  For example, Marie Leroi of the New York Times stated that, “…the recognition of race may improve medical care. Different races are prone to different diseases.”  However, as stated in the article, it is becoming more and more apparent the it is an, “…ambiguous picture.”  For me, this continues what I think is an overarching theme in this class that race is a poor basis for analysis.  Race, while it is used by some as the only way to categorize a person, is an imperfect and (for the most part) a purely physical characteristic.  We, as human beings, are much more similar than people like to admit.  Our reading this week cited the assertion (one that I had heard in the past) that African-Americans are more susceptible to hypertension.  However, studies of people in West Africa (many of whom African-Americans are descendant) have relatively low blood pressure, debunking the idea that African-Americans were genetically susceptible.  Anthropologists attempted to perpetuate the argument by proposing that the reason African-Americans were susceptible to hypertension was due to them being descendants of slaves and slavery was to blame.  This perpetuation of a racist hypothesis that has been debunked is still being accepted as a possible explanation.  I had thought that medicine was a field that could rise above racial stereotypes and stick to the scientific facts.  However, even the editor of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, a person who is a proponent of the slavery hypothesis, called critics of the hypotheses too “left-thinking.”  It has become apparent that the human bias is alive and well in the medical and scientific community.  

3 thoughts on “Week 6 Analytical Post

  1. You did really well in describing your thoughts on the connections between race, genetics, and health. You a definitely correct in saying that the connections between them are not clear cut facts at all. Just like you, I believed them to be very obvious facts as well before this week’s lesson. I also found an article on the medical care of different races. To me, it is very interesting that even though everyone is similar no matter their ethnicities or races, there are different medical issues that are unique to certain racial groups. My article described how the use of the medical histories of different racial groups is the best way for medical professionals to go about preforming their duties to the fullest extent. It talked about how the use of medical histories of different races will continue to be at the forefront of medical treatment unless the field of medicine starts to become extremely individualized. When racial profiling is used in the medical field, it is not for discriminating purposes, but it is in fact a very helpful asset and tool that is put forth to improve the health and wellbeing of the patients under the care of medical professionals.

  2. Mizeskon, well written piece, and yes, bias color’s our views in ways we don’t expect. While reading your piece I was thinking, after years of trying to tear down the walls of prejudice created around the idea of ‘race’, why do people consistently go back to looking for answers in ‘race’? This was followed by, if we can’t find concrete answers in the idea of race, why do we continue to use it to define and study so many aspects of life? Obviously, some people benefit by creating and exploiting these markers, the red lining of neighborhoods for example, provided financial benefits for real estate developers. But I think it goes beyond that; perhaps egalitarian/equity is a difficult position for humans, perhaps the survival instinct wants to control one’s surroundings, and other people, may appear a threat if they are not subjected. This, I imagine creates a tension between the intellectual ideas of equity and fraternity and the instinctual need to control the world around us. I think a follow up to this class that would be interesting would to look at how the various markers society creates is used to exploit, subject, and empower various people.

  3. You make a great point when you said that you would think that the field of medicine would be able to rise above racial biases in order to provide better, smarter care for all people. When in reality, racial biases permeate so many aspects of our lives that they are nearly impossible to avoid. These sorts of dichotomies are drilled into our brains, both blatantly and subtly, from birth that the idea that race can have a significant impact on a person’s health sounds logical. However, when you take into account the fact that two people of two different races can have the same amount of genetic differences as two people of the same race, it really illuminates how ridiculous that idea is. Things like socioeconomic status, environment, diet, and mental well being are all much better determinants of someone’s health. While the scientists who proposed the idea that African Americans have higher blood pressure because of their enslaved ancestors retaining sodium probably didn’t propose the idea to be blatantly racist, it shows that they likely didn’t take into consideration how the here and now can affect your health. When trying to unlock the secrets of a medical anomaly it is important to approach it with a completely open mind, not one clouded by biases.

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