When we discuss such a broad topic such as race, there are those who still mistake it for a biological construct. Using reasons such as certain racial groups getting particular diseases, or those lovely Ancestry.com commercials that may confuse racial background with nationality. It sucks to repeat it once more for the sake of those who don’t understand, but it is also necessary: race is not biological, it is social.
History has proven time and time again how race affects the lives of people systemically in our society. The concept of race is necessary in regards to giving our identities a name, but it is also used as a tool by the majority to divide community groups, pinpointing which groups are superior or inferior. Basically, this gives a thrust for infamous race baiting, if we think about how this still affects us today.
Eugenics & race studies
There have been countless false studies that have tried to convince people that biology is why a racial group is inferior. Adolf Hitler used harmful eugenic tools to harm Jews during the Holocaust. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment prodded upon African American men to see the progression of syphilis in their group, masking it as free health care, to deem them inferior. Scientific racism was rampant across the globe, being used to “prove” the superiority of whites. Though not as popular today, many of these racist ideals still linger.
The idea that people of the same racial identity only share similar genetic traits has been proven false by scientists. There are studies that highlight the human genetic variation can’t be matched among separate social boxes. And the argument for specific diseases only affecting specific groups isn’t a good one, because humans respond to different illnesses in different ways, which have nothing to do with one’s racial makeup. One has to take into account the environment the person is living in, or diet, or past conditions.
Race vs ethnicity vs nationality
Race and ethnicity, along with race and nationality, are not to be used interchangeably. Race classifies people by their physical traits in their shared cultures. Ethnicity is a sense of social belonging in regards to common cultural traditions. Nationality is the belonging to a particular nation. Yes, there are DNA tests one can take in order to find out where distant family members came from geographically, however, it cannot tell you about your race. It doesn’t help that there is so much hype around genetic DNA tests simply because of the belief that race is biological in that respect. A lot of “Am I related to an Indian princess?” going on there…Yikes.
Now, with all of this said, just because race is a social construct, it does not give you permission to use the phrase “I don’t see color” so freely, or not acknowledge how race is a real thing in our world. As we think critically in the science realm, we have to think just as critically as far as social realms go too.