First things first, race isn’t real. What this means is that, biologically, there isn’t any real difference between Whites and Blacks, or Asians and Native Americans that is greater than the difference between a white person in San Francisco and another in New York. While we may provide a cultural meaning to race, all meaning it has is of purely social construction. We as people ascribe a value to race and ethnicities, but once we realize that we are all just human, then we can end the needless divisions between everyone.
While I have personally seen some people use the differences in health to demonstrate an existence in races, studies are coming up more and more to show the truth of the matter. Black people tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure and low birth weight babies. Some might utilize this information to point out that they are ‘less fit’ or some other nonsense. What they, and everyone else who uses such information to validate their bias, do is ignore confounding variables. They look at ‘race’ and the difference, ignoring the intense effect that living in a country with such pervasive racism (both active and passive) can have on people. At the end of the day, the difference between the ‘races’ begin and end with skin color. All other traits are more to do with culture, where your ancestors grew up, and geography.
While ascribing differences could be harmless, they seldom are. One of the easier ways to see this, amongst many in our country, is the increase in Anti-Muslim sentiment after every attack that is attributed to a person of Middle Eastern descent. This sentiment manifests itself in anything from verbal slurs to outright assault. “Girls wearing hijabs have been harassed. Mosques have been defaced and targeted by arsonists…” (Gopalakrishnan, Manasi, 2015). This trend repeats itself after every attack that is committed, or thought to be committed by someone of Middle Eastern descent. While this may seem like it doesn’t relate directly to health, it does. Imagine the stress you’d experience if you had to face this type of sentiment every time someone who just looks vaguely like you did something like this. I know I’d be unable to imagine it occurring once, none-the-less every time something similar occurred.
Health isn’t a simple concept. It is complicated, and filled with interactions we are just beginning to understand. While race as we typically consider it may not be real, the impacts it has from the way we treat people based on the perceived differences are real. And they impacts they have can be as far reaching as anything else we wish to study.
Gopalakrishnan, Manasi. “Attacks against Muslims on the Rise after Paris Strikes.” DW.com. November 26, 2015. Accessed July 8, 2016. http://www.dw.com/en/attacks-against-muslims-on-the-rise-after-paris-strikes/a-18878424.