Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy on 2022-05-15 19:00Z by Steven

Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Columbia University Press
December 2021
320 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780231200660
Paperback ISBN: 9780231200677
E-book ISBN: 9780231553735

Joseph L. Graves Jr., is a professor in the Department of Biology at
North Carolina A&T State University

Alan H. Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology
Hampshire College

The science on race is clear. Common categories like “Black,” “white,” and “Asian” do not represent genetic differences among groups. But if race is a pernicious fiction according to natural science, it is all too significant in the day-to-day lives of racialized people across the globe. Inequities in health, wealth, and an array of other life outcomes cannot be explained without referring to “race”—but their true source is racism. What do we need to know about the pseudoscience of race in order to fight racism and fulfill human potential?

In this book, two distinguished scientists tackle common misconceptions about race, human biology, and racism. Using an accessible question-and-answer format, Joseph L. Graves Jr. and Alan H. Goodman explain the differences between social and biological notions of race. Although there are many meaningful human genetic variations, they do not map onto socially constructed racial categories. Drawing on evidence from both natural and social science, Graves and Goodman dismantle the malignant myth of gene-based racial difference. They demonstrate that the ideology of racism created races and show why the inequalities ascribed to race are in fact caused by racism.

Graves and Goodman provide persuasive and timely answers to key questions about race and racism for a moment when people of all backgrounds are striving for social justice. Racism, Not Race shows readers why antiracist principles are both just and backed by sound science.


  • List of Questions
  • Preface
  • Introduction: What Are Race, Racism, and Human Variation?
  • 1. How Did Race Become Biological?
  • 2. Everything You Wanted to Know About Genetics and Race
  • 3. Everything You Wanted to Know About Racism
  • 4. Why Do Races Differ in Disease Incidence?
  • 5. Life History, Aging, and Mortality
  • 6. Athletics, Bodies, and Abilities
  • 7. Intelligence, Brains, and Behaviors
  • 8. Driving While Black and Other Deadly Realities of Institutional and Systemic Racism
  • 9. DNA and Ancestry Testing
  • 10. Race Names and “Race Mixing”
  • 11. A World Without Racism?
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • Index
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‘Race is not biological, it’s a social construct’: Scientists say ethnicity does NOT determine health risks – and doctors who say so are just fueling ‘racial prejudice’

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2019-02-19 14:24Z by Steven

‘Race is not biological, it’s a social construct’: Scientists say ethnicity does NOT determine health risks – and doctors who say so are just fueling ‘racial prejudice’

The Daily Mail

Mia De Graaf, Health Editor
Washington, D.C.

Researchers presented papers at a conference this week on race and genetics. This graph, presented by Brian Donovan at BSCS Science Learning says we often see race as disparate circles in a Venn diagram. Actually, he and other say, it’s more like circles on top of each other.
  • New research adds fuel to the firey debate about race and genetics
  • Experts told a conference we should not use race as a risk factor for health
  • They say differences between racial groups are minimal and differences within groups are huge

Race is not a legitimate category to use in medicine, top scientists declared at the world’s biggest science conference this week.

In the US, African Americans are told to watch out for hypertension, white people for multiple sclerosis, Asians for heart disease, Hispanics for diabetes, and so on.

But on Friday, leading biologists said those general warnings are based on ‘bad science’ and do no more than fuel ‘racial prejudice’.

Among them, anthropologist Keith Hunley of the University of New Mexico presented a new map of genomes around the world, finding few differences between the clusters of racial groups that are often cited in medical research.

By lumping people into distinct broad categories, he and others warned, we risk ‘hyping’ certain inherited health risks for some and underestimating them for others – while sewing division, stereotypes and ignorance within society…

‘We have this notion that there are variants that are unique to certain groups, that there are genes that are unique to certain groups. And that’s almost never the case,’ Dr Hunley said as he described his presented his paper at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference…

Read the entire article here.

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How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive on 2018-03-31 02:37Z by Steven

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics


Micah Baldwin / Via Flickr: micahb37

Race has long been a potent way of defining differences between human beings. But science and the categories it constructs do not operate in a political vacuum.

This open letter was produced by a group of 68 scientists and researchers. The full list of signatories can be found below.

In his newly published book Who We Are and How We Got Here, geneticist David Reich engages with the complex and often fraught intersections of genetics with our understandings of human differences — most prominently, race.

He admirably challenges misrepresentations about race and genetics made by the likes of former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade and Nobel Laureate James Watson. As an eminent scientist, Reich clearly has experience with the genetics side of this relationship. But his skillfulness with ancient and contemporary DNA should not be confused with a mastery of the cultural, political, and biological meanings of human groups.

As a group of 68 scholars from disciplines ranging across the natural sciences, medical and population health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, we would like to make it clear that Reich’s understanding of “race” — most recently in a Times column warning that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — is seriously flawed…

Read the entire letter here.

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Lecture: Evolutionary Versus Racial Medicine: Why It Matters

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-03 05:05Z by Steven

Lecture: Evolutionary Versus Racial Medicine: Why It Matters

Wake Forest University
Broyhill Auditorium in Farrell Hall
1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27106
Thursday, 2014-02-06, 19:00 EST (Local Time)

Dr. Joseph L. Graves Jr., Associate Dean for Research, Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering, North Carolina A&T State University & UNC-Greensboro, will discuss the biological and social definitions of race. He will explain how these differ and why conflating the two has had disastrous consequences for biomedical research and clinical practice. Graves will also discuss why understanding basic evolutionary mechanisms are indispensable for comprehending human biological variation and how these in turn may be applied to addressing ongoing health disparities.

For more information, click here.

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Mapping “Race”: Critical Approaches to Health Disparities Research

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-09-01 02:10Z by Steven

Mapping “Race”: Critical Approaches to Health Disparities Research

Rutgers University Press
256 pages
6 figures, 8 tables, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-6136-3
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-6137-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8135-6138-7

Edited by:

Laura E. Gómez, Professor of Law, Sociology, and Chicano Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Nancy López, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of New Mexico

Forward by:

R. Burciaga Valdez

Researchers commonly ask subjects to self-identify their race from a menu of preestablished options. Yet if race is a multidimensional, multilevel social construction, this has profound methodological implications for the sciences and social sciences. Race must inform how we design large-scale data collection and how scientists utilize race in the context of specific research questions. This landmark collection argues for the recognition of those implications for research and suggests ways in which they may be integrated into future scientific endeavors. It concludes on a prescriptive note, providing an arsenal of multidisciplinary, conceptual, and methodological tools for studying race specifically within the context of health inequalities.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Foreword by R. Burciaga Valdez
  • Preface
  • 1. Introduction: Taking the Social Construction of Race Seriously in Health Disparities Research / Laura E. Gómez
  • Part I: Charting the Problem
    • 2. The Politics of Framing Health Disparities: Markets and Justice / Jonathan Kahn
    • 3. Looking at the World through “Race”-Colored Glasses: The Fallacy of Ascertainment Bias in Biomedical Research and Practice / Joseph L. Graves Jr.
    • 4. Ethical Dilemmas in Statistical Practice: The Probelm of Race in Biomedicine / Jay S. Kaufman
    • 5. A Holistic Alternative to Current Survey Research Approaches to Race / John A . Garcia
  • Part II: Navigating Diverse Empirical Settings
    • 6. Organizational Practice and Social Constraints: Problems of Racial Identity Data Collection in Cancer Care and Research / Simon J. Craddock Lee
    • 7. Lessons from Political Science: Health Status and Improving How We Study Race / Gabriel R. Sanchez and Vickie D. Ybarra
    • 8. Advancing Asian American Mental Health Research by Enhancing Racial Identity Measures / Derek Kenji Iwamoto, Mai M. Kindaichi, and Matthew Miller
  • Part III. Surveying Solutions
    • 9. Representing the Multidimensionality of Race in Survey Research / Allya Saperstein
    • 10. How Racial-Group Comparisons Create Misinformation in Depression Research: Using Racial Identity Theory to Conceptualize Health Disparities / Janet E. Helms and Ethan H. Mereish
    • 11. Jedi Public Health: Leveraging Contingencies of Social Identity to Grasp and Eliminiate Racial Health Inequality / Arline T. Geronimus
    • 12. Contextualizing Lived Race-Gender and the Racialized-Gendered Social Determinants of Health / Nancy López
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
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Race in Contemporary Medicine

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-03-23 20:03Z by Steven

Race in Contemporary Medicine

208 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-41365-7

Edited by:

Sander L. Gilman

With the first patent being granted to “BiDil,” a combined medication that is deemed to be most effective for a specific “race,” African-Americans for a specific form of heart failure, the on-going debate about the effect of the older category of race has been renewed. What role should “race” play in the discussion of genetic alleles and populations today? The new genetics has seemed to make “race” both a category that is seen useful if not necessary, as The New York Times noted recently: “Race-based prescribing makes sense only as a temporary measure.” (Editorial, “Toward the First Racial Medicine,” November 13, 2004) Should one think about “race” as a transitional category that is of some use while we continue to explore the actual genetic makeup and relationships in populations? Or is such a transitional solution poisoning the actual research and practice.

Does “race” present both epidemiological and a historical problem for the society in which it is raised as well as for medical research and practice? Who defines “race”? The self-defined group, the government, the research funder, the researcher? What does one do with what are deemed “race” specific diseases such as “Jewish genetic diseases” that are so defined because they are often concentrated in a group but are also found beyond the group? Are we comfortable designating “Jews” or “African-Americans” as “races” given their genetic diversity? The book answers these questions from a bio-medical and social perspective.

This book was previously published as a special issue of Patterns of Prejudice.


  • Introduction: On Race and Medicine in Historical Perspective. Sander L. Gilman (Emory)
  • Reflections on Race and the Biologization of Difference. Katya Gibel Azoulay (Grinnell)
  • Against Racial Medicine. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. (North Carolina A&T State University) & Michael R. Rose (University of California, Irvine)
  • Blood and Stories: How Genomics is Rewriting Race, Medicine and Human History. Patricia Wald (Duke)
  • “Why are Genetic and Medical Researchers Accepting a Category Created by Slaveholders?” A Social History of the Reification of “Race” James Downs (Princeton)
  • Eugenics and the Racial Genome: Politics at the Molecular Level. Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell (University of Illinois – Chicago)
  • The Risky Gene: Epidemiology and the Evolution of Race. Philip Alcabes (Hunter College School of Health Sciences)
  • Folk Taxonomy, Prejudice and the Human Genome: Using Heritable Disease as a Jewish Ethnic Marker. Judith S. Neulander (Case Western Reserve University)
  • The price of science without moral constraints: German and American medicine before DNA and Today. Robert E. Pollack (Columbia)
  • Deadly Medicine Today: The Impossible Denials of Racial Medicine. C. Richard King (Washington State University)
  • Biobanks of a “Racial Kind”: Mining for Difference in the New Genetics. Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Stanford)
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Against racial medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2012-05-13 00:14Z by Steven

Against racial medicine

Patterns of Prejudice
Volume 40, Numbers 4/5 (2006), Special Issue: Race and Contemporary Medicine
pages 481-493
DOI: 10.1080/00313220601020189

Joseph L. Graves Jr., Dean of University Studies; Professor of Biological Sciences
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro

Michael R. Rose, Director of the University of California Network for Experimental Research on Evolution; Professor of Biological Sciences
University of California, Irvine

Some scholars claim that recent studies of human genetic variation validate the existence of human biological races and falsify the idea that human races are socially constructed misconceptions. They assert that analyses of DNA polymorphisms unambiguously partition individuals into groups that are very similar to lay conceptions of race. Furthermore, they propose that this partitioning allows us to identify specific loci that can explain contemporary health disparities between the supposed human races. From this, it appears that racial medicine has risen again. In this essay Graves and Rose construct a case against racial medicine. Biological races in other species are strongly differentiated genetically. Because human populations do not have such strong genetic differentiation, they are not biological races. Nonetheless, the lack of population genetic knowledge among biomedical researchers has led to spuriously racialized human studies. But human populations are not genetically disjoint. Social dominance may lead to medical differences between socially constructed races. In order to resolve these issues, medicine should take both social environment and population genetics into account, instead of dubious ‘races’ that inappropriately conflate the two.

Racial medicine has risen again

Charles B. Davenport, one of the most respected scientists of the first decades of the twentieth century, argued that laziness was a hereditary trait. Davenport claimed in particular that laziness was a heredity character of Southern Whites. Later epidemiological studies determined that ‘white trash’ laziness was actually the result of heavy infections caused by the nematode necator americanus.  But, for Davenport and many other biologists of his time, the phenotypic differences displayed by particular populations were proof positive of the existence of human races. They believed that these races differed in readily observable features, such as skin colour and body proportions, and also in those they could not directly observe, such as intellect, morality, character, disease predisposition and resistance. In 1921, for example, Ernest Zimmerman published a report on differences in the manifestation of syphilis in Blacks and Whites. Such thinking helped to sanction the now infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment.  Modern biologists recoil with horror when asked to revisit this sad episode in the history of science.

The rationale for the Tuskegee experiment was the underlying assumption that the Negro was genetically inferior to Whites. Thus, the perceived differences in incidence rates and progression of disease were thought to reside in characteristics intrinsic to the race, as opposed to the social conditions under which visibly darker-skinned persons of African descent lived in the United States. (It is significant that many ‘white Americans’ have African ancestors but ‘pass as white’, an anomaly to which we will return below.) Therefore, the Tuskegee experiment suffered not only from its moral shortcomings, but also from poor experimental design. The results of the experiment could not have distinguished between any genetically based difference in disease progression, since many environmental and social differences between African Americans and the Swedish cohorts with which they were to be compared were not properly controlled. With hindsight, the scientific problems of this experiment are obvious. What is not recognized is that modern discussions of race and medicine have not moved very far beyond the misconceptions that gave birth to the Tuskegee research programme...

…The identification of human races is not based on cogent biology

While humans have always recognized the existence of physical differences between groups, they haven’t always described those differences in racial terms. Racial theories of human differentiation were not a consistent theme of the ancient world, and really did not begin to flourish until after the European voyages of discovery in the fifteenth century. European naturalists of the eighteenth century were divided about the characterization of human differences. Almost all agreed that there was only one human species, yet they disagreed about whether there was a legitimate way to rank the various groups of humans hierarchically. For example, Carl Linneaus’s Systema Naturae (1735) classified human races partly on the basis of subjectively determined behavioural traits. It is not clear, however, what Linnaeus meant by the use of the term ‘race’. It seems that his classification scheme was describing subspecies of humans based on morphological features. According to it, European traits were clearly superior to others, and Africans were assigned the lowest rung in the hierarchy.

Such racist ideas were transplanted to America during colonial times, along with other biological absurdities. During American chattel slavery, the socially defined race of the offspring of slavemasters and slave women was ‘Negro’. Virginia law classified Eston Hemmings, who was 87.5 per cent European according to genetic ancestry, as ‘Negro’. Geneticists now suspect that Thomas Jefferson was his father, based on family genealogies and a genetic marker specific to the Jefferson family found in Eston’s descendants.

The one-drop rule (also called ‘hypo-descent’) in the United States differs from definitions of ‘blackness’ in Canada, Mexico, Britain and Brazil. Individuals, therefore, could move from one country to another and be classified differently according to the social custom. Indeed, in the United States, individuals have been born as a member of one race and died as a member of another. European ethnic groups, such as the Irish and Italians, did not become ‘white’ until the twentieth century. Such ‘races’ are clearly based on social conventions, as opposed to biological measures of genetic ancestry. Socially produced racial ideology from the very beginning influenced the collection and interpretation of data relating to human biological variation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-01-09 06:53Z by Steven

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium

Rutgers University Press
272 pages
14 figures, 24 tables
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-2847-2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-3302-5

Joseph L. Graves, Jr., Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

In this groundbreaking book, Joseph Graves traces the development of thought about human genetic diversity. He argues that racism has persisted in our society because adequate scientific reasoning has not entered into the equation. Graves champions the scientific method, and explains how we may properly ask questions about the nature of population differentiation and how (if at all) we may correlate that diversity to differences in human capacity and behavior. He also cautions us to think critically about scientific findings that have historically been misused in controversies over racial differences in intelligence heritability, criminal behavior, disease predisposition, and other traits. Greek philosophy, social Darwinism, New World colonialism, the eugenics movement, intelligence testing biases, and racial health fallacies are just a few of the topics he addresses.

According to Graves, this country cannot truly address its racial problems until people understand that separate human races do not exist empirically. With the biological basis for race removed, racism becomes an ideology, one that can and must be expunged.

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The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2012-01-09 06:07Z by Steven

The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America

Plume an imprint of Penguin
June 2005
320 pages
5.35 x 7.99in
Paperback ISBN: 9780452286580

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Preeminent evolutionary biologist Joseph Graves proves once and for all that it doesn’t. Through accessible and compelling language, he makes the provocative argument that science cannot account for the radical categories used to classify people, and debunks ancient race-related fallacies that are still held as fact, from damaging medical profiles to misconceptions about sports. He explains why defining race according to skin tone or eye shape is woefully inaccurate, and how making assumptions based on these false categories regarding IQ, behavior, or predisposition to disease has devastating effects.

Demonstrating that racial distinctions are in fact social inventions, not biological truths, The Race Myth brings much-needed, sound science to one of America’s most emotionally charged debates.

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Biological v. Social Definitions of Race: Implications for Modern Biomedical Research

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2012-01-09 05:51Z by Steven

Biological v. Social Definitions of Race: Implications for Modern Biomedical Research

The Review of Black Political Economy
Volume 37, Number 1 (2010)
pages 43-60
DOI: 10.1007/s12114-009-9053-3

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Misconceptions concerning the concordance of biological and social definitions of race are ongoing in American society. This problem extends beyond that of the lay public into the professional arena, especially that of biomedical research. This continues, in part, because of the lack of training of many biomedical practitioners in evolutionary thinking. This essay reviews the biological and social definitions of race, examining how understanding the evolutionary mechanisms of disease is crucial to addressing ongoing health disparities. Finally it concludes by laying bear the fallacies of “race-specific” medicine.

Read or purchase the article here.

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