Contrary to much of the racial identity debate, race is far from a social construct

Contrary to much of the racial identity debate, race is far from a social construct

First, those who contend that Dolezal is perfectly free to identify as “black” are engaging in relativism — i.e., that each person is entitled to define truth as he or she sees it. That line of reasoning might work in sociology or the social sciences, but it does not work in genetics.

Second, the idea that race is either biological or sociological is a false dichotomy; it is manifestly both a biological and social construct.

The relevant question, therefore, is: “To what extent does the biological factor matter?”

Different geneticists give different answers. Some, such as Michael White and Alan Templeton at Washington University in St. Louis, say it doesn’t matter at all and that race is not a biologically justifiable concept.

Others, however, argue that genetics still matters quite a bit. Genetic diseases tend to cluster among certain races and ethnicities.

For instance, sickle cell anemia is found primarily among blacks, cystic fibrosis among whites of European descent, and Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazi Jews.

This is a reflection of the fact that human populations exhibit significant structure, which is a record of our history as a species.

It is widely accepted that the ancestors of the Khoisan hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari separated from the ancestors of the rest of humanity 150,000 years ago; ancestors of all non-Africans separated from Africans on the order of 50,000 years ago; and ancestors of Native Americans separated from East Asians 15,000 years ago.

In some cases, diverged branches of this diversifying human tree came back together and fused to form new populations. All of these events have left distinct genetic markers.

In fact, as the famed biologist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza once stated, though our history as a species is short, there is more than enough genetic information to construct ancestral trees. And, genetics has the power to reveal much more about you than just your racial and ethnic identity.For example, by sequencing just a small portion of DNA, scientists can detect your biogeographical ancestry and even get a rough estimate of what your face looks like


2 thoughts on “Contrary to much of the racial identity debate, race is far from a social construct

  1. I don’t see a big problem with people saying that race is a social construct because that is true. And to say that there is no good biological basis for race is also true, to the extent that we mean ‘race’ in the way it is usually described. That does not mean that there aren’t important genetic variations within and across human (sub)populations. That is separate from the skin color and other superficial characteristics that people use when discussing race.

    For example, people usually refer to “black” people as those who have dark skin color or whose recent relatives came from the continent of Africa. But Africa is far from a monolith, and in fact the majority of human genetic diversity comes from within Africa. In this sense, there is less genetic basis for grouping people of recent African origin together than any other two groups anywhere else in the world. Yet this is exactly how race is described.

    I other words, yes there are genetic groups and subgroups of humans, but these bear little resemblance to what people mean by race when that term is used. For this reason, I would avoid use the term the way you are using it because you will be misunderstood.


  2. i guess you could state there is only one race, the human race. Still for pure biological reasons i do think it’s not a problem to distinguish between different subgroups of that one race in ‘sub’ races. As said in the article there many distinct genetic markers you can attribute to only one group. As such races do exist in literal terms, however due to evolution providing all living things with a means to prevent becoming a meal and still finding one itself, which we term ‘xenophobia’ but i see as a perfectly logical survival strategy, people will always tend to be wary of ‘not their own’.

    Racism is an extreme exponent but not limited to only one group. Racism is universal regardless of the color, creed origin.

    Trying to hide it away by just demoting the instinct doesn’t make it go away. It’s part of our heritage as mammals and always will be.

    The term ‘black’ i have never gotten my head around as a concept. I wrote something about it earlier

    To me that’s really a social construct, and nothing to be proud of. Setting yourself apart from others only makes that the others will treat you that way even more so. It’s counterproductive.

    All in all being able to biologically recognize races is a bonus for any physician when somebody presents himself with certain symptoms.


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