Genetic Background of certain U.S. Populations (Article)
Genetic Background of
certain U.S. Populations
In regions of the United States where
the population is predominantly of
European-American or African-American
descent, the description of race is often
distilled down to "black" or "white."
The label "black" may also be misleading
----- in [regards to] African-American[s].
The terms "race" and "ethnicity" are
often used interchangeably, *but*
they are in fact far from synonymous:
"Race" refers to differences of
biology, "Ethnicity" to differences
of culture and geographic origin.
We contend that Ethnic differences
-- rather than distinctions between
"black" and "white" -- more accurately
convey information potentially
relevant to a particular case.
For instance, a Kenyan, a Haitian, and an
African-American would be considered
`black'(according to current practice), BUT
they do *not* share `biological inheritance'.
Anthropologists have long recognized that
the "racial" lines drawn by a society are
'cultural' rather than `scientific' constructions.
Within the international community,
therefore, "racial" divisions may not
even be perceived in the same way.
What is "black" to someone from the
United States , for example, may be "white"
to a Brazilian or a Caribbean Islander.
The terms "black" and "white" say more about
how U.S. society has been `structured'
than about `biological realities'.
Reductionist "racial" labels often obscure
rather than illuminate `ethnic' differences
In the United States, 350 years of interaction
has led to considerable mixing between
persons of various geographic origins.
Although the evidence of such diverse ancestry
is at least implicitly acknowledged in the
African-American community by attention to
gradations of skin color, it is less frequently
acknowledged that many "whites" have
African and other non-"white" ancestors.
As for the African-American population in the
United States , geneticist Luigi Cavalli-Sforza
 has estimated that 30% of their
genes derive from "white" sources.
These facts suggest that the traditional
racial divisions used in the United States
are of questionable utility and accuracy
The debate within the government treats
issues of ethnic and racial identity that
supports our contention that the use of
racial labels is burdened by inaccuracies.
This seems especially true at the level
of the routine case presentation.
 Shipman P. Facing racial differences together.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. 3 Aug 1994; 40:B-1.