This blog post from Montclair HS in NJ, co-written by a teacher and a student is very insightful through its thorough exploration of the biology of melanin as well as some helpful links in its introduction of genetics and race.
Melanin is a pigment found in our skin whose job is to protect us from harsh conditions such as sunlight (specifically the radiation from rays that can damage DNA and increase risk of skin cancer). Those with higher levels of melanin tend to have darker eyes and those with lower levels have lighter eyes. In addition, there are two types of melanin called eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin (in higher concentration) is responsible for darker shades in eyes, hair, and skin while pheomelanin (in higher concentration) is responsible for lighter shades.
The topic then shifts to the idea of skin color losing its biological importance. It contributes to the creation of race and its value. When science mixes with societal constructs, things can get complicated. Through science, we obtain knowledge backed by evidence. What happens if bias interferes? I’d question the accuracy of the information I consume. Science should not be utilized to push forward personal agendas nor should it be used to justify things like racism. The blog links an article covering misrepresentative genetic data and how it can be used to support one’s view. The article references a 2017 gathering of white nationalists chugging milk, because digesting lactose as an adult is a genetic trait more frequent in white people. However, this stems from a racially charged past. Other minorities were excluded from this evolution, yet this trait is commonly used to tell those of African descent to leave America. While certain findings appear to have one meaning, we must be careful to not fixate on how we want to use information to support our own opinions. Part of this responsibility belongs to scientists and how they present their data. Many doubt their ability to communicate to the public about controversial topics. All humans are 99.6-99.8% identical. That as a fact is the basis of why I believe there aren’t superior or inferior people.
The American Medical Association implemented two policies as of November 16, 2020. The policies acknowledge race as a social construct. Racial essentialism – when race is considered a biological construct – worsens health disparities for marginalized groups. Therefore the AMA desires medical education that can explain how racism is able to grow when race is presented as biology. It is their hope that race can one day no longer be a determinant of health.
This blog piqued my interest, because I often forget that identifiers such as race and gender are social constructs. These articles were a perfect combination of what some of my Diversity Committee work is but also what we have been learning in AP Bio about genetics. I think it is so important to address these areas of bias within our systems in this country. Racial inequality has been prevalent for far too long. We must use science for the greater good and not to support each personal opinion we have.