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, 90 (11), 1699-702

Why Genes Don't Count (For Racial Differences in Health)


Why Genes Don't Count (For Racial Differences in Health)

A H Goodman. Am J Public Health.


There is a paradoxical relationship between "race" and genetics. Whereas genetic data were first used to prove the validity of race, since the early 1970s they have been used to illustrate the invalidity of biological races. Indeed, race does not account for human genetic variation, which is continuous, complexly structured, constantly changing, and predominantly within "races." Despite the disproof of race-as-biology, genetic variation continues to be used to explain racial differences. Such explanations require the acceptance of 2 disproved assumptions: that genetic variation explains variation in disease and that genetic variation explains racial variation in disease. While the former is a form of geneticization, the notion that genes are the primary determinants of biology and behavior, the latter represents a form of racialization, an exaggeration of the salience of race. Using race as a proxy for genetic differences limits understandings of the complex interactions among political-economic processes, lived experiences, and human biologies. By moving beyond studies of racialized genetics, we can clarify the processes by which varied and interwoven forms of racialization and racism affect individuals "under the skin."

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