July 8, 2009

A Cost to Racial Denial

Justin Katz

Race is not purely a matter of hue. Evidence from sports aptitude to facial bone structure proves it to be so, and denying that fact in the name of racial harmony makes it more difficult to solidify the cultural holding that the differences don't matter in a philosophical or legal context. It may also make it more difficult to analyze and eliminate differing success rates of medical treatment:

African-Americans are less likely than whites to survive breast, prostate and ovarian cancer even when they receive equal treatment, according to a large study that offers provocative evidence that biological factors play a role in at least some racial disparities.

The first-of-its-kind study, involving nearly 20,000 cancer patients nationwide, found that the gap in survival between blacks and whites disappeared for lung, colon and several other cancers when they received identical care as part of federally funded clinical trials. But disparities persisted for prostate, breast and ovarian cancer, suggesting that other factors must be playing a role in the tendency of blacks to fare more poorly.

Astonishingly, even the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society is quick to validate concerns not about the research's results, but its being publicized in the first place:

"When I hear scientists talking about racial differences, I worry that it starts to harken back to arguments about genetic inferiority," said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

The message that we all ought to hammer home repeatedly is that even genetic differences don't mean inferiority when it comes to our individual value as human beings.

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Which is why people of mixed ethnicity/race,whatever,are more resistant to medical problems that are genetic in nature-wider gene pool.
Did the study compare people who were diagnosed at the same stage of the diseases?That would make for a real problem if they didn't.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 8, 2009 12:35 PM

"When I hear scientists talking about racial differences, I worry that it starts to harken back to arguments about genetic inferiority,"

And why does a "difference" necessitate a determination of "inferiority". It would be interesting to know if there are some diseases in which Blacks have a higher survival rate. Would that make whites "inferior". It would appear that whites are "inferior" basketball players. My response to that is a big "so what".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 8, 2009 3:36 PM

"difference" does not neccesarily equate to inferior. I don't think anyone would make that case, unless they were illinformed. However I think much fear is based on the past history of the eugenics movement (suprisingly the creator of Planned Parenthood was a Eugenics supporter) and attempts to explain racial differences soley on biology. Many of the race scholars in the field of sociology/aa studies are divided by how to deal with this same sort of situation. You must realize the biological differences if you want to solve key problems (i.e higher rate of prostate cancer in AA males) or you do a disservice to all. I think the left has thrown so much fuel on the race fire its hard to even discuss it in rational terms (not that the right has helped much). Race still is a problem in society. Addressing it in purely surface level ways (ri name change, overt political correctness) does much more harm then good. Flatly denying the inequality of opprotunity and inequality of outcome also hurts the conversation. Its easy for the white conservative from south county to deny racism, just as easy for the white liberal on the east side to assert its complete truth. Differences in cultural are one thing, those are something to overcome/accept. Differences in biology are a fact of life, just like the differences between any 2 ethnic groups. The problem is many in America are afraid that discussing any differences make you a racist, or that those differences must mean your lesser than the majority.

Posted by: steadman at July 8, 2009 9:58 PM

Otis Brawley is more interested in combating what he perceives as racism in society, than he is in objectively examining scientific evidence about cancer survival among individuals with different genetic backgrounds. He calls himself as one of the country's few black oncologists, has attacked the AMA for being racist, and written articles about black cancer rates. Dr. Brawley's brand of reverse racism is remarkably self-serving and hypocritical for someone whose own career has been based on affirmative action and being a spokesperson for the black community and black doctors.

Posted by: Bob Rubin at July 11, 2009 10:05 AM
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