Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms
Race is a fluid concept used to group people according to various factors including, ancestral background and social identity. Race is also used to group people that share a set of visible characteristics, such as skin color and facial features. Though these visible traits are influenced by genes, the vast majority of genetic variation exists within racial groups and not between them. Race is an ideology and for this reason, many scientists believe that race should be more accurately described as a social construct and not a biological one.
Race is a concept without a generally agreed upon definition. Race has been documented as a concept developed in the 18th century to divide humans into groups often based on physical appearance, social, and cultural backgrounds. Race has been used historically to establish a social hierarchy and to enslave humans. Racial groups have no defined boundaries, but have a blurry and imprecise relationship with human genetic variation and population groups across the world. I like Professor Audrey Smedley's definition. She states, "Race is a culturally structured systematic way of looking at, perceiving, and interpreting reality."
Name: Vence Bonham, J.D.
Occupation: Associate Investigator, Social and Behavioral Research Branch; Senior Advisor to the Director on Societal Implications of Genomics, Office of the Director; Branch Chief, Education and Community Involvement Branch
Biography: Mr. Bonham is a healthcare policy researcher whose work examines the intersection of public policy and genetics and the numerous questions that this prompts. Mr. Bonham is interested in the impact of genetic discovery on the use of the constructs of race and ethnicity, health disparities, genetic discrimination and medical decision making. Mr. Bonham's primary research goal is to improve our understanding and use of genomics in diverse communities, particularly in communities of color, and determine how genetic and genomic research will affect people in such communities.