Contemporary Race Theory & Human Genetic Variation
Ethical Implications of Forensic Genetic Claims About Phenotype and Ancestry
What is race? “ When we talk about the concept of race, most people believe that they know it when they see it but arrive at nothing short of confusion when pressed to define it.” Evelyn Brooks Higgenbothem
Use race in biomedical research and clinical practice:
“ DNAPrint Genomics and the Penn State University have identified the world’s only race-determining set of ancestral informative markers.” DNAPrint web site visited June 9, 2003
“… we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view.” Risch et al., Genomic Biology, 2002
Assumptions Behind the Race in Science Controversy
That the “reality” of race can be adjudicated using genetic data
If race is not “genetic” then it is not real
Whether or not race is a valid category for clinical research or health care depends on whether or not race can be defined genetically
John Wigmore, 1894: Japanese are white but Chinese are not!
“ Having as good a claim to the color ‘white’ as the southern European and the Semitic peoples, having today greater affinities with us in culture and progress and the facility of social amalgamation than they have with any Asiatic people, isolated as they are today from Asia in tendencies and sympathies…”
Naturalization: Terrace v Thompson, 274 F 841, 849(W.D. Wash. 1921)
“It is obvious that the objection [to naturalization of non-whites] by Congress is not due to color, but only to color as evidence of a type of civilization which it characterizes. The yellow or bronze racial color is the hallmark of Oriental despotisms… ”
“It was deemed that the subjects of these despotisms, with their fixed and ingrained pride in the type of their civilization, which works for its welfare by subordinating the individual to the personal authority of the sovereign… were not fitted… to make for the success of a republican form of Government. Hence they were denied citizenship.”
Will forensic profiling with ancestry or morphology informative markers increase or decrease the focus of law enforcement resources on people of some races as compared to others?
If “increase,” then does this mean that some groups will bear an unfair proportion of the burdens, harms or wrongs in return for creating some quantum of public safety or for achieving other penal goals?
“ In the idealistic typological approach, every race consists of members who possess characteristics that are typical of that race but different from those of all other races… and each representative is separated morphologically by a distinct gap from the members of other races.”
Bennett, 1969, Typological vs Evolutionary Appraoch in Skeletal Population Studies, Am. J. Phys. Anthropology, 407-415 at 413
Science and Race: Measurement of Human Differences
By the late 18 th C assessments of race had turned from a focus on human similarities to a focus on human differences
“ The hallmark of anthropology in the 19 th century was anthropometry, and its primary objective was to clarify, document and measure physical differences among human groups.” Smedley, 1993
“ The belief in the Negro’s extinction became one of the most pervasive ideas in American medical and anthropological thought during the late 19 th century.” Haller, 1971, Outcasts From Evolution