Week 6 Reflection Post

When we first conceive thoughts about race, our thoughts may resort to the physical characteristics that you’re able to see. An example of this would be the color of one’s skin. However, the concept of race is not confined to the color of one’s skin in fact it crosses several borders beyond this. Both lecture and the readings seek to identify ways in which race is connected to medical and scientific terms. Two viewpoints that are brought to focus on are viewing race as a social construct or race as a scientific concept. Lecture advises that the concept of race became possible from the enlightenment thought. This process challenged inheritance amongst social status and therefore perpetuated inequalities amongst different classes. We saw a glimpse of this in previous weeks when scientist measured the brain sizes of different races. This was done in an effort to confirm that one race has a greater brain size, which resulted in having more intelligence when compared to other races. Contemporary research “unravels” the idea that genetic data does exists. This means that different races can be identified by scientific data. Leroi argued that by viewing an individual’s genetic values, you are able to see clear differences between races. Comparing human genomes does this. When reading the different viewpoints, I couldn’t help but be surprised that this form of data is reliable especially since lecture teaches us that human biological variations have very few sharp boundaries.

Nancy Krieger’s article “If race is the answer, what is the question?” focuses on the way in which medical challenges and practices affect different races. Several examples are considered such as the life expectancy of a white male when compared to a black male. Or, the rate at which black males contract diabetes when again, compared to a white male. Obviously races must receive different forms of treatment when a particular race is affected by a serious health condition in different ways from another race. However, is race the real reason behind this? I believe race plays an important role however in my opinion it is not the only reason. This week’s topic allows me to view race in a different light. For example there are several social characteristics tied to the term “race” that promotes a negative meaning. Race drives a wedge between individuals and focuses on what makes us different as opposed to what makes us similar. The irony behind it all is that we all actually share more similarities when compared to one another as opposed to those within our socially assigned racial categories.

2 thoughts on “Week 6 Reflection Post

  1. I like how you analyze Nancy Krieger’s article to highlight the use of race in medical practices. If there is ever a reason for scientific research, health and medicine is at the top of the list. If there are ways to better treat a patient by identifying the race that they belong to then that should be used as an advantage. The only problem with using race based treatments and medicines is that there are many different genetic variations within a race. It is hard to define a race based on one or two genes. It is the collection of genes and the ways they interact that make one person similar to another. But that is also what makes people different from everyone else on the planet. If genetics are going to be used for medical reasons, it should be based on an individual basis rather than race. Leroi points out that when looking at genetic data you can see clear differences between races. There is no way to quantify clear differences, but if that is the case then race based medicine might be a practical solution. It is going to take more research for definitive data to be produced, but if it benefits a person’s health it is well worth it.

  2. Hi Will, wonderful post! It is very thought out and eloquently written. I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis of Krieger’s article, the generalization of characteristics based on skin color and applied to medicine comes up incredibly short in providing adequate and equal healthcare. Your recap of past weeks reminds me of how at one point in our scientific history, eugenics and phrenology were considered modern science and true beyond reasonable doubt, yet as time passed, they were proven to lack scientific evidence or thought. The same thought jumps out when considering that there is a genetic marker for ‘race.’ It becomes less of using our knowledge to frame our opinions and more of using our opinions to understand knowledge. Another point that we learned from the interview with Dr. Linda Hunt is the discrepancy in the classification of our typical racial groups. Skin color, geographic and continental origin, language, and ancestral groups are the basis of classification for our standard of race. It is beyond me how anyone could know a person’s natural language from looking at their genetic code. Without a consistent standard of classification, applying race to healthcare is simply an excuse to provide a substandard level of care to minorities.

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