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The Value of Racial Labels is Gone

Posted on 26 February 2016 by Jerry

Scientists say that the value of racial designations is gone in genetics and biology. They have been arguing this point for the last two decades. The facts are that genetically it can be demonstrated that our forebears all came from Africa. In addition, every single human being shares the same DNA. We share 99.9% of the genes that compose every single human being.

There are no medical conditions that human beings suffer that are reserved for a single ‘race’ of people.   For example, sickle-cell anemia has been often referred to as a disease that affects black people and so it has been considered an African American or African disease. In fact although it occurs in these groups in somewhat higher frequency it is a matter of ancestry, geography and evolution. It occurs in populations of the world where malaria is or once was common. Sickle-cell anemia is a disease that is an evolutionary adaptation to exposure to malaria.

An article appearing in The Guardian on March 1, 2015 written by Adam Rutherford states, “Sickle-cell anemia affects people of all skin colours [sic] because it has evolved where malaria is common. Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese residents of Beijing more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbors. Tay-Sachs disease, once thought to be a “Jewish disease”, is as common in French Canadians and Cajuns.”

An article published in the HuffPost Science on February 9, 2016 said, “In 2004, for example, Francis Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now director of the National Institutes of Health, called race a “flawed” and “weak” concept and argued that science needed to move beyond race.”

Where racial divisions were once thought to be of significance they are today fading into irrelevance. Racial distinctions in the face of genetic information are only ‘skin deep’. “Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Craig Venter, head of Celera Genomics Corporation and pioneer in interpreting the human genome. He continued, “We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world.”

The writer of the book, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea, Robert Wald Sussman wrote an editorial article published in NEWSWEEK magazine on 11/8/14. In the article he said, “In 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth. This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists….Since that time similar statements have been published by the American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and an enormous amount of modern scientific data has been gathered to justify this conclusion.”

A recent paper was authored by scientists from Drexel University, led by Michell Yudell, titled Taking race out of human genetics and published by Science magazine in the February 2016 issue. It stated, “In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research….We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research – so disputed and so mired in confusion – is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way.”

All elements of present society need to stop using the concept of race as if it matters. It doesn’t matter and we need to change our habits. This is not an issue that will be resolved overnight for the concept of race has worked its way into every bit of data the government and industry collect and store. We need to stop using race to sort our data and report the results of everything.

We are all guilty of being too lazy to update our reality. It has become too easy for all too many human beings to believe that skin color or facial characteristics, etc. are valid descriptions of divisions of humankind. We need to recognize and act consistent with the reality that the difference between humans is only “skin deep”.

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