Ten years ago this month, we were definitively told that race is scientifically invalid, supposedly ending centuries of debate over the social versus biological character of racial categories. [. . .] this one seemingly conclusive finding regarding the biological insignificance of race was supposed to have put the final nail in the race-as-biology coffin. Given the remarkable cruelty and injustice linked to the idea that racial differences and disparities reflect inherent biological differences, this finding was highly celebrated among scholars, politicians, and many others. [. . .]But Obasogie has the answer:
But, there seems to have been a detour on the way to the funeral: rather than moving away from using race to understand human genetic difference, several research projects began mapping social understandings of race onto this less than 1% of human difference. Like Lazarus, race quickly came back from the dead; the very science that was thought to lead to its demise has instead given it new life under the guise of modern genetics. [. . .]
Framing racial differences and disparities in largely genetic terms when the evidence for doing so is less than robust may lead us to miss the social and political practices that can more meaningfully explain the dynamics at play. And when we miss these complexities, we risk simplistically explaining these outcomes as a function of who people inherently "are" rather than the deeper influences connected to how we treat one another.
But what also unites these three developments concerning race and genetics a decade after the tolling of its death knell is the stunning lack of regulation concerning the questionable claims being made. The FDA has no special rules for new drugs seeking race specific labels beyond a narrow focus on safety and efficacy, genetic ancestry tests garner no special attention from regulators, and federal and state law enforcement agencies openly embrace new forensic techniques without much regard for their impact on racial minorities or social understandings of race. Allowing the market to push these issues without more meaningful oversight is no less unwise than allowing banks to regulate themselves.Obasogie kindly allows that discussion of race and biology "need not be thoroughly killed" -- just heavily regulated lest "new technologies end up resurrecting a ghost from the past that may haunt us well into the next decade and beyond." This is the second type of response I expect to be seeing more of.