From racial­ism to racism

The Guardian Weekly - - Reply -

Ge­orgina Lawton (A twist in the tale, 17 Au­gust) ques­tions whether DNA test­ing com­pa­nies ac­cu­rately present in­for­ma­tion about race. More im­por­tantly, she ques­tions how ge­nomic test­ing com­pa­nies treat the con­cept of eth­nic­ity. Quot­ing Mark Thomas, an evo­lu­tion­ary ge­neti­cist, Lawton agrees that “these com­pa­nies are us­ing eth­nic­ity as a nice, pol­ished eu­phemism for race”.

How­ever, Lawton should have taken her cri­tique fur­ther, for some DNA test­ing com­pa­nies ac­tively ex­ploit pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tions about race and eth­nic­ity, and in so do­ing, pan­der to age-old racial­ist views regarding the in­her­i­tance of bi­o­log­i­cal and cul­tural traits. An email ad from one of these com­pa­nies bears the click-bait ti­tle, Do you have royal blood? Thus, the long-dis­cred­ited no­tion that cul­tural or psy­cho­log­i­cal traits are trans­mit­ted “in the blood” are sim­ply shifted to the im­pli­ca­tion they are “in the genes”.

The great dan­ger ly­ing in this racialised take on eth­nic dif­fer­ences is that it only re­quires the in­jec­tion of a few in­vid­i­ous dis­tinc­tions be­tween eth­nic groups to turn racial­ism – the height­ened aware­ness of bi­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences – into racism. Iron­i­cally, then, what os­ten­si­bly be­gan as an at­tempt to show how sur­pris­ingly di­verse hu­man ge­netic en­dow­ments are may un­for­tu­nately have the ef­fect of hard­en­ing neg­a­tive racial stereo­types among peo­ple be­liev­ing in the ob­jec­tive re­al­ity of bi­o­log­i­cal race, thereby fur­ther con­fus­ing bi­ol­ogy, per­son­al­ity and cul­ture. Mar­garet Vazquez-Gef­froy Las Ve­gas, New Mex­ico, US

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.