W1: Is race a predisposition for disease?

In our American society, race seems simple to define. Race does not seem as though it is something that is created by our own perception but instead we view it as a series of fixed parameters. In reality there is only one race, the human race. Race is all about ones perspective; different histories have different understandings of race. During the mid 1600’s English considered the Irish people to be a different race. They were the same skin color but somehow the Irish were of lesser value and could be put into a separate race, and thus were sold as slaves around the world. At a point in time race became what we now know it today, changing from the then status of an individual to their skin color. Skin color is a trait just as curling your tongue or having attached earlobes. Skin color, as a trait does not define other traits. If you compare races, there is more genetic diversity within a race than between them. Race is not genetically defined, you cannot tell a persons race by examining their genome. Humans are only one species and only one race. We cannot be divided into sub-species, thus we cannot be divided into separate races. The proper term for what we understand race to be is ethnicity, human groups that have cultural differences between them. Intelligent people go through their whole lives believing that race is a biological construct when in actuality it is a social one.

To say that race does not exist is a genetic actuality, but that is not to say it does not affect health and ultimately the path of your life. Take for example Byron and Max, two individuals whom seem very similar. They may live in the same neighborhood with similar jobs and income but because of their race the lifestyle and comfort level they live is drastically different. Max being white has had many privileges that Bryon was not offered. Being a different race greatly affects ones wellbeing regardless of their education or employment. A person’s health can be affected by race, genetically speaking two races are not different, society can affect a person’s health as a result of their race. For example hypertension, from the activities we looked at from the Understanding Race website, we know that 40% of African American adults have hypertension while only 30% of Caucasian adult have hypertension. If there is no genetic difference between these groups than what explains the 10% difference. Studies have shown that hypertension can be caused by environmental influences such as racism. Darker-skinned individuals endured more negative social influences than light-skinned individuals leading to increased blood pressure. These studies between health and ethnicity are not limited to African-Americans and Caucasians; American Indians are 60% more likely to have a stroke when compared to Caucasians and 2.1 times more likely to have diabetes (Russell, 2010). Race does not predict disease; rather it is likely a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors triggered by the societal constraints of being part of an ethnicity.



Russell, Lesley. 2010. Fact Sheet: Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity. Center for American Progress.

3 thoughts on “W1: Is race a predisposition for disease?

  1. Hi Sophia,

    I really enjoyed your post. The overall tone was informative, but not combative. You even included that intelligent people can go through life believing that race has a biological base, and I think this is the case because the concept of race has been so ingrained in our culture that people believe it to be true. I believe that this notion has continued to exist because people, in my opinion, generally tend to judge others before they judge themselves. It is easy to find differences in others, or aspects of their culture that are “weird” or “unjust”, but most of the time, they’re just that, different.

    I also like how you explained the history of “race” in regards to it’s fluidity. As you said, race hasn’t always been described using skin color as a characteristic, but it has always been something that is used to justify the mistreatment of others and the notion that one group of people is biologically superior to another, while this is entirely not true. As you mentioned before, the social implications of this construct are far reaching, and can impact something relatively minor, to something as extreme as being sold into slavery.

    Lastly, the facts and figures you included from the Fact Sheet were eye opening.

    Thank you,

  2. 2. Hi Sophia, I could not agree with you more. I like the way you put into perspective of how people determine who is better just by the way they look. Some people seem to think that just because the features of others differ from their own, they are a different race. We take these differences to particularly harming extent. The environmental factors we bestow on others that we think are lesser than ourselves are causing health problems that we are attributing to the way they look. The health issues that may develop from factors other than environmental develop from genetics linked to their ancestors and their original origin. Most people do not realize this concept until they do more research on the subject. I like how you point out how we have decided that race is the color of our skin. Our social acceptance is determined by our color and not by anything that is actually important. We are making judgements based on all of the wrong reasons and it is sad. People do confuse race for ethnicity and it is something that people are pretty much taught from a young age. Maybe one day people will start to realize the real meaning of race and ethnicity.


  3. Hello Sophia, the title of your post really caught my attention. I liked how you explained that race is not biologically backed: that we are not made up of “sup-species” and that our genomes are not divisible by “race”. I also really loved your definition of ethnicity as cultural groups. It is honestly crazy how many people believe that “race” is biological. I for one didn’t learn it was just a social construct until freshman year of college. I don’t know why I didn’t think about how crazy it was that these “races” just happened to be granted more or less privilege depending on skin color, despite how superficial that sounded.
    I thought you gave a great example of Byron and Max, and how it incorporated privilege into the discussion of race. I think it’s especially relevant today in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement which addresses the injustice experienced by so many persons of color. The example of hypertension among different “races” was a great way to explain the logistics of how racism can affect health since it’s not genetic. The stress of a less privileged environment can really impact the health of impacted communities, and your final sentence “race does not predict disease; rather it is likely a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors triggered by the societal constraints of being part of an ethnicity” was really well worded and summed up the main point of your blog post really well.

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