WWW Open Letters

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Race" does not determine biology (and vice versa)

To the editor (Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

The research leading to the discovery of a gene variant the increases the risk of heart attack is to be commended (Gene find links race, heart risk" AJC 11/11/05 Pg A1). However, physicians and others who apply this research must remember that given the high levels of genetic variation within population groups, and the large amounts of ethnic admixture that continue to exist in the US and elsewhere, many people who self-identify as African-American may not carry the gene variant and have no increased risk of heart attack. Likewise, those who do not identify as African-American may well have the version of the gene that raises risk of health attack.

Though race and ethnicity remain important and relevant social phenomena, decades of biological research offer no evidence of a biological or physical basis for race. For that reason, it is critical that scientists and physicians focus on measurable, medically-relevant factors and avoid making assumptions about genetics or health based on race or ethnicity.

Karama C. Neal, PhD


Blogger Karama said...

I am writing paper on this topic and will link to it here once it's published. I wrote this letter because I don't want folks to think that only black folks have this gene variant. Or that all blacks folks have this variant and so we're just a heart attack waiting to happen.

It is also important that folks know that there is no biological basis for race. Race was invented about 400 years ago to justify the trade in African people and the genocide of American people.

November 11, 2005  
Blogger Karama said...

And here's the New York Times article: Genetic Find Stirs Debate on Race-Based Medicine

November 11, 2005  
Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

You know there are people who think a white child could not have sickle cell trait. We make scary assumptions sometimes when we don't think things through.

April 04, 2006  
Blogger Karama said...

Thanks for your comment, Laura. Amazingly enough, I hear comments like that all the time. What saddens and frustrates me most is when I hear them from physicians, geneticists, biologists and others who should know better.

Thanks for visiting Open Letters. I hope you'll come back again soon. You may also want to visit the companion blog, So what can I do. Enjoy!

I think you're my first external comment! Thanks! :)

April 05, 2006  

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