On BioScience and Life and Such

Posts Tagged ‘Ethnic group’

Find me a new term for “race”, please

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2009 at 9:02 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

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Races doesn’t exist – well fine, but how do you want to label our genetic differences then. Stop using the “term” race because it leads to racism would be like treating a symptom while disregarding the disease.

Reading this post on Greg Laden’s blog we learn that using the term “race” in derogatory ways lead to racism. Well, duh, thank you captain obvious.

The discussion following the post adds some nuance to the subject, but still fails to adress the real problem: if you do not want to use “race”, which term would you want to use to describe groups who share a set of genetic traits ? Ethnicity maybe, a label of geographical location maybe, – what about “of Caucasian ancestry albeit with significant genetic differences to other Caucasians”.

Genetic traits can be grouped. In my work I need to do this when I do pharmacogenetics. Some of the genetic markers I need to test for are very common in Caucasians, some are very common in people of Asian ancestry and yet others are very common in people of African ancestry. Testing for all of them would be overwhelmingly many (and too expensive) so we need to make a selection of the ones that are most likely to be present in our patient population. And, we have to make this selection based on ethnicity, geographical loation of ancestry, or “race” if you will. I do this selection without any thought of other aspects of the word “race” . I do this to provide the best care I can to our patients.

One of the arguments in the above mentioned debate (and in the respective friendfeed entry) is that we do not need a label for these groups, – but I do ! To do my work in a proper manner I really do !

If anyone labels me a racist over having to do this, they are creating the problem rather than helping to solve it.

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