Race and the Genetic Revolution

Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

SHELDON KRIMSKY
KATHLEEN SLOAN
With a Foreword by Evelynn M. Hammonds
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/krim15696
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  • Book Info
    Race and the Genetic Revolution
    Book Description:

    Do advances in genomic biology create a scientific rationale for long-discredited racial categories? Leading scholars in law, medicine, biology, sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology examine the impact of modern genetics on the concept of race. Contributors trace the interplay between genetics and race in forensic DNA databanks, the biology of intelligence, DNA ancestry markers, and racialized medicine. Each essay explores commonly held and unexamined assumptions and misperceptions about race in science and popular culture.

    This collection begins with the historical origins and current uses of the concept of "race" in science. It follows with an analysis of the role of race in DNA databanks and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Essays then consider the rise of recreational genetics in the form of for-profit testing of genetic ancestry and the introduction of racialized medicine, specifically through an FDA-approved heart drug called BiDil, marketed to African American men. Concluding sections discuss the contradictions between our scientific and cultural understandings of race and the continuing significance of race in educational and criminal justice policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52769-9
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Biological Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)
    Evelynn Hammonds and Evelynn M. Hammonds

    For many readers the genetics/genomics revolution is one they know most about from newspaper accounts of the discoveries of new genes or the use of DNA for forensic analysis in high-profile criminal cases or from popular television shows. Among the general public and in the academy there has been little attention paid to the increasing scholarly work on the broader impact of the genetic revolution in American society.

    The distinguished scholars in this volume note correctly that one of the most significant issues that these new genetic technologies engage with is that of race and racial disparities in the criminal...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: HOW SCIENCE EMBRACED THE RACIALIZATION OF HUMAN POPULATIONS
    (pp. 1-10)
    Sheldon Krimsky

    This volume of essays grew out of two projects of the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) that examined the persistence of the concept of human races within science and the impacts such a concept has had on disparities among people of different geographical ancestries. Both projects were funded by the Ford Foundation. The first project commenced with a series of research papers addressing the effects of expanded forensic DNA databases on “racial” disparities in the criminal justice system and culminated in a national conference held at New York University on June 19–20, 2008, that brought together academics and social...

  6. PART I. SCIENCE AND RACE:: HISTORICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVES
    • 1 A SHORT HISTORY OF THE RACE CONCEPT
      (pp. 13-30)
      Michael Yudell

      At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the idea of race—the belief that the peoples of the world can be organized into biologically distinctive groups, each with their own physical, social, and intellectual characteristics—is understood by most natural and social scientists to be an unsound concept. The way scientists think about race today, after all, is different than it was in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s when some promoted black genetic inferiority as an argument against egalitarian social and economic policy, and certainly different than one or two centuries ago as...

    • 2 NATURAL SELECTION, THE HUMAN GENOME, AND THE IDEA OF RACE
      (pp. 31-44)
      Robert Pollack

      This chapter discusses the history of humanity as a single species, born of an ancestral species some hundreds of thousands of years ago in Africa. The history of our single species tells us that all people who were ever born anywhere on Earth have been, are, and will be descendents of Africans. Because all human beings are members of one species, all concepts of “race” that place one set of humans aside as in some way more or less fit or worthy than another set, must be in conflict with the facts of nature. The persistence of imaginary, false notions...

  7. PART II. FORENSIC DNA DATABASES, RACE, AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
    • 3 RACIAL DISPARITIES IN DATABANKING OF DNA PROFILES
      (pp. 47-67)
      Michael T. Risher

      Of the hundreds of thousands of arrests every year in California on suspicion of a felony, more than 325,000 in 2008, approximately 30 percent never lead to any conviction.¹ In the US justice system, people who are arrested but never convicted are presumed innocent. A disproportionate number of these innocent arrestees are people of color. As of January 1, 2009, these people have been forced to let the State of California take a DNA sample, analyze it, and include the resulting profile in a criminal database, to be compared evermore with crime-scene evidence. As discussed below, although there are procedures...

    • 4 PREJUDICE, STIGMA, AND DNA DATABASES
      (pp. 68-96)
      Helen Wallace

      The collection, use, and storage of DNA for forensic purposes have increased rapidly since 1995, when the world’s first DNA database was set up in Britain. The use of DNA in criminal investigations can undoubtedly be highly beneficial, providing evidence that can help to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. Storing DNA evidence from crime scenes and the computerized DNA profiles obtained from it can also be extremely valuable if past crimes need to be reinvestigated. However, the retention of individuals’ DNA profiles and other information on computer databases, combined in some countries with the storage of linked biological...

  8. PART III. ANCESTRY TESTING
    • 5 ANCESTRY TESTING AND DNA: USES, LIMITS, AND CAVEAT EMPTOR
      (pp. 99-115)
      Troy Duster

      Direct consumer use of DNA tests for ancestry tracing has taken off in the last five years, and we are not just talking about probes for first-generation genetic lineage as in “Who’s your daddy?” popularized on daytime “reality” television. Since 2002, nearly a half-million people have purchased tests from at least two dozen companies marketing direct-to-consumer kits.¹ The motives for testing range from the desire for ancestral links to those who lived on other continents over five hundred years ago, to a more modest interest in reconstructing family histories. For many African Americans, the quest to find a link to...

    • 6 CAN DNA “WITNESS” RACE? FORENSIC USES OF AN IMPERFECT ANCESTRY TESTING TECHNOLOGY
      (pp. 116-126)
      Duana Fullwiley

      In courts of law an intelligent evaluation of facts is often difficult or impossible without the application of some scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge. The most common source of this knowledge is the expert witness.¹ On August 11, 2004, an African American man named Derrick Todd Lee was convicted for the first of a series of murder and rape cases in South Louisiana. The life sentence he received would be followed by a death penalty ruling in a second case, which included evidence from several others, just a few months later. Lee had a record of questionable peeping behavior,...

  9. PART IV. RACIALIZED MEDICINE
    • 7 BIDIL AND RACIALIZED MEDICINE
      (pp. 127-141)
      Jonathan Kahn

      On June 23, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug to treat heart failure in African Americans and only African Americans. This race-specific drug is called BiDil but is not a new drug. It is merely a combination into a single pill of two existing generic drugs that have been used to treat heart failure regardless of race for over a decade. BiDil was brought to the FDA by NitroMed, a hitherto small Massachusetts biotech company with no other products on the market. NitroMed explicitly requested race-specific FDA approval for its drug based on clinical data produced...

    • 8 EVOLUTIONARY VERSUS RACIAL MEDICINE: WHY IT MATTERS
      (pp. 142-170)
      Joseph L. Graves Jr.

      In the classic paper “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” Theodosius Dobzhansky explained why and how evolutionary biology was the core unifying theme in biology.¹ While medical practitioners do not always recognize this, medicine is a subset of biology, or at least successful medical intervention is heavily dependent upon biological principles. This fact was recognized as early as Erasmus Darwin in Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life.² Thus, even before evolutionary theory took root, some physicians had intuitions that eventually led to the fully developed theory of evolutionary medicine.³ Over the last two decades...

  10. PART V. INTELLIGENCE AND RACE
    • 9 MYTH AND MYSTIFICATION: THE SCIENCE OF RACE AND IQ
      (pp. 173-194)
      Pilar N. Ossorio

      Over the past two centuries biomedical science has, at times, provided justification for white privilege. Science has been used to support the proposition that differences in achievement reflect innate differences in ability among racial groups. Broadly speaking, the view that differences in academic achievement, IQ scores, employment status, or wealth primarily reflect innate differences is called “biological determinism.”¹ As the late Stephen J. Gould pointed out, at its core, biological determinism is “a theory of limits. It takes the current status of groups as a measure of where they should and must be (even while it allows some rare individuals...

    • 10 INTELLIGENCE, RACE, AND GENETICS
      (pp. 195-238)
      Robert J. Sternberg, Elena L. Grigorenko, Kenneth K. Kidd and Steven E. Stemler

      A number of scholars claim to have studied relationships between intelligence, race, and genetics.¹ The thesis of this chapter is that many of these studies are not grounded in scientifically derived constructs but rather, in large part, in folk beliefs about them. There is a big difference between studying relationships between constructs and studying relationships between folk beliefs regarding those constructs. The bigger problem, however, is when one studies the latter but believes one is studying the former.

      In the first part of this chapter, we review the constructs of intelligence and of race. In the second part, we discuss...

  11. PART VI. CONTEMPORARY CULTURE, RACE, AND GENETICS
    • 11 THE ELUSIVE VARIABILITY OF RACE
      (pp. 241-254)
      Patricia J. Williams

      The question of race is, at its core, a questioning of humanity itself. In various eras and locales, race has been marked by color of skin, texture of hair, dress, musical prowess, digital dexterity, rote memorization, mien, manners, mannerisms, disease, athletic ability, capacity to write poetry, sense of rhythm, sobriety, childlike cheerfulness, animal anger, language, continent of origin, hypodescent, hyperdescent, religious affiliation, thrift, flamboyance, slyness, physical size, contamination, and presence of a moral conscience. As random as such presumed markers may be in the aggregate, they have nevertheless been deployed to rationalize the distribution of resources and rights to some...

    • 12 RACE, GENETICS, AND THE REGULATORY NEED FOR RACE IMPACT ASSESSMENTS
      (pp. 255-270)
      Osagie K. Obasogie

      Despite significant advances in race relations and the status of people of color, racial minorities face new challenges in the twenty-first century that are unmistakably connected to past injustices. An emerging concern is how human biotechnologies are being used to lend support to framing racial disparities and differences as distinctly biological rather than social phenomena. Previously discredited beliefs that inherent biological differences give rise to racial disparities in health and other social outcomes are under increasing reconsideration. In a nutshell, the color line that has and continues to divide racial groups is increasingly taking on, in the view of some,...

  12. CONCLUSION: TOWARD A REMEDY FOR THE SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF RACIAL MYTHS
    (pp. 271-278)
    Kathleen Sloan

    As the preceding chapters have amply documented and discussed, human societies have grouped and classified one another for millennia. Plato stratified societies into groupings of people with three distinct natural abilities to justify roles within a society. Other civilizations created concepts of royal bloodlines and hierarchies based on religious views, political power, and origin myths. Among these divisions and categories, none has been more powerful or enduring than the concept of race.

    Beginning in eighteenth-century Europe, the idea of human “races” was accepted and given the imprimatur of scientific “fact” (see chapter 1). Historical developments of the time contributed significantly...

  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 279-284)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 285-298)