The first thing I would tell someone who is uneducated about race that it is a social construct, not a biological. A really good example was provided in the lecture where we talked about the division of “English” and “Irish” into two separate races. Race use to be differentiated though societal status, (like it was between the English and the Irish), but slowly became defined by skin color. Biologically there is no genetic difference between these “races”, instead science tells us that there is less difference between “races” than there is within a race. Race is just genetic diversity, like hair color or texture. Instead, what most people mean when they say “race” is ethnicity.
Ethnicity effects health studies because most physicians conducting the studies do not know the difference between race and ethnicity, therefore when looking at how different populations are effected they mistakenly divide people into categories based on “race” or skin color, despite their genetic history and makeup. However socially, ethnicity does affect our health when it is confused with “race”. Health inequalities between White and Black Americans was a good example used while discussing access to resources.
It is so important to understand that race is not biological. Yet because the social construct of race is so strong, our ethnicity can affect our health. This is due to racism that grants some people more access than others. This was explained comparing difference in birth weights between Arabic-named women before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Lowering or decreasing birth weights and poor birth outcomes were found to correlate with the increase of discrimination towards women with an Arabic name.
Unsurprisingly, the classification of people based on “race” complexly affects health through multiple facets. In a Forbes.com article, Robert Pearl, M.D. points to the income disparities in the U.S. and how they affect different “races” access to adequate health care. The author points to multiple statistics that have little to do with genetics: that African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer (50% more so) than white woman. This is due to the limited amount of screening options that come with poor or no health insurance.
The problems of “race” and institutional racism are deep rooted in many white cultures. Poor health is a direct result of systematic racism that comes from a poor understanding of race and ethnicity, and makes it very difficult to solve. The first step however, is education. We must make sure to knock down cultural barricades that prevent equality from flourishing in our society with education.
Pearl, Robert. Why Health Care Is Different If You’re Black, Latino Or Poor. Forbes. March 05, 2015. Accessed July 08, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2015/03/05/healthcare-black-latino-poor/#5b8582631ca7.