Race is a classification
of humans beings into different categories on the basis of their biological
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
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
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.
ideology based on the idea that humans can be separated into distinct racial groups and
that these groups can be ranked on a hierarchy of intelligence, ability, morality etc.
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
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
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. They do this first by unapologetically advancing
the idea that peoples whom they take to be of the `Old World', or `Africans', `Europeans',
`East Asians', and `Native Americans', can serve as putatively pure reference populations
against which genetic risk for common diseases such as asthma can be calculated for those
in the `New World'. Technologically, they deploy a tool called ancestry informative
markers (AIMs), which are a collection of genetic sequence variants said to differ in
present-day West Africans, East Asians, Europeans, and (ideally Pre-Columbian) Native
Americans. I argue that this technology, compelling as it may be to a range of actors who
span the political spectrum, is, at base, designed to bring about a correspondence of
familiar ideas of race and supposed socially neutral DNA. This correspondence happens, in
part, as the scientists in question often bracket the environment while privileging
racialized genetic variance as the primary source of health disparities for common
disease, in this case between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans with asthma. With their various
collaborators, these scientists represent a growing movement within medical genetics to
re-consider race and `racial admixture' as biogenetically valid points of departure.
Furthermore, many actors at the center of this ethnography focus on race as a function of
their personal identity politics as scientists of color. This to say, they are driven not
by racist notions of human difference, but by a commitment to reduce health disparities
and to include `their' communities in what they describe as the `genetic revolution'.
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.