Sociology Index


Race is a classification of humans beings into different categories on the basis of their biological characteristics. There have been a variety of schemes for race classification based on physical characteristics such as skin colour, head shape, eye colour and shape, nose size and shape etc. A common race classification system uses four major groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid and Australoid.

The term 'race' was once popular in anthropology, but has now fallen into disrepute, because the idea of racial classification has become associated with racism - the claim that there is hierarchy of races.

The idea of race categories also appears to be unscientific, since humans are able to mate across all ‘races’ and have done so throughout history, creating an enormous variety of human genetic inheritance.

In addition the defining characteristics of ‘race’ do not appear in all members of each so-called race, but merely occur with some degree of statistical frequency. If the defining characteristic of each ‘race’ does not appear in all members of each ‘race’ then the whole definition is clearly inadequate. Critical analysis of students' struggles with knowledge construction reveals how educators talk about race and racism in the context of their personal and professional lives.

Researchers in American race relations have demonstrated the ambivalence white Americans feel toward black Americans. The prejudiced white behaves positively or negatively toward blacks depending on the context of the behavior, while the less prejudiced white behaves more consistently across contexts.

Citizenship education is now a required component of the national curriculum that must be taught by all state-funded schools in England. It is constantly highlighted by policy makers as a major innovation that promotes social cohesion in general, and race equality in particular.

Critical Race Theory, Race Equity, and Public Health: Toward Antiracism Praxis
Chandra L. Ford, PhD and Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, PhD
Racial scholars argue that racism produces rates of morbidity, mortality, and overall well-being that vary depending on socially assigned race. Eliminating racism is therefore central to achieving health equity, but this requires new paradigms that are responsive to structural racism's contemporary influence on health, health inequities, and research.
Critical Race Theory is an emerging transdisciplinary, race-equity methodology that originated in legal studies and is grounded in social justice. Critical Race Theory's tools for conducting research and practice are intended to elucidate contemporary racial phenomena, expand the vocabulary with which to discuss complex racial concepts, and challenge racial hierarchies.
We introduce Critical Race Theory to the public health community, highlight key Critical Race Theory characteristics (race consciousness, emphases on contemporary societal dynamics and socially marginalized groups, and praxis between research and practice) and describe Critical Race Theory's contribution to a study on racism and HIV testing among African Americans.

Deconstructing the relationship between genetics and race
Michael Bamshad, Stephen Wooding, Benjamin A. Salisbury & J. Claiborne Stephens
Nature Reviews Genetics 5, 598-609 (August 2004)
Abstract: The success of many strategies for finding genetic variants that underlie complex traits depends on how genetic variation is distributed among human populations. This realization has intensified the investigation of genetic differences among groups, which are often defined by commonly used racial labels. Some scientists argue that race is an adequate proxy of ancestry, whereas others claim that race belies how genetic variation is apportioned. Resolving this controversy depends on understanding the complicated relationship between race, ancestry and the demographic history of humans. Recent discoveries are helping us to deconstruct this relationship, and provide better guidance to scientists and policy makers.

The Biologistical Construction of Race - 'Admixture' Technology and the New Genetic Medicine
Duana Fullwiley, Department of Anthropology, William James Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Abstract: This paper presents an ethnographic case study of the use of race in two interconnected laboratories of medical genetics. Specifically, it examines how researchers committed to reducing health disparities in Latinos with asthma advance hypotheses and structure research to show that relative frequencies of genetic markers characterize commonly understood groupings of race.

The Medicalization of Race: Scientific Legitimization of a Flawed Social Construct
Ritchie Witzig, MD, MPH
Abstract: The term “race” has many definitions, ranging from a family unit to a species, but in common and medical usage, defining “race” has meant separating Homo sapiens into three to six groups.This division of Homo sapiens into race taxons started in the 18th century, when the sciences of genetics and evolutionary biology were not yet invented. These disciplines have since shown that human race taxonomy has no scientific basis. Race categories are social constructs, that is, concepts created from prevailing social perceptions without scientific evidence. Despite modern proof that race is arbitrary biological fiction, racial taxons are still used widely in medical teaching, practice, and research. Human diversity is inconsistently taught in medical schools and erratically presented in medical texts. Race taxons have been “medicalized”; that is, race groupings have been legitimized by their use in medical literature and practice as acceptable descriptive labels that are integral to the proper diagnosis and treatment of disease in humans. Assumptions about disease that are made because a race has been assigned can result in important negative consequences for individual patients and inaccurate genetic inferences for populations.
In contrast, ethnicity is a concept that incorporates social, religious, linguistic, dietary, and other variables to identify individual persons and populations.Ethnicity may be able to impart clinical clues to diagnosis if the clinician taking the history is well informed and open minded. Ethnic boundaries are dynamic and imprecise, and a strict methodical approach to ethnicity that is equal to the approach required for the study of other variables is necessary if the concept of ethnicity is to be clinically useful.