023. Race

A discussion on (in)equality that’s more than skin deep


Questions to ponder on race.

  1. What is race? Does it have a biological meaning we should concern ourselves with?
  2. What do we think about what James Watson thinks about race? And what are we to make of the fact that we have to consider the thoughts of a ninety-year-old white man on the subject?
  3. Kaplan et al. conclude that underrepresented minority faculty members had fewer publications and were less likely to be promoted and retained in academic careers. Why do you think that is?
  4. We can perhaps accept as a given that currently most “races” tend to share similar environments, cultures, rituals, foods, etc. Given a shared set of circumstances/happenstances associated in a biomedically relevant way with “race”, should we study the concept scientifically and investigate potential health consequences?
  5. Could the funding of race-based research be used to justify “racist” beliefs? Could there ever be a legitimate scientific conclusion that could “justify” such racism?
  6. The CDC reports that uterine cancer rates have risen 0.7 parent per year from 1999 to 2015, while deaths from uterine cancer in that same time have risen 1.1 percent per year. What should we make of the fact that black women were twice as likely as other women to be diagnosed with uterine cancer that’s harder to treat and therefore were more likely to die from uterine cancer?
  7. Is the fact that we don’t remember the “noose incidents” described in footnote 4 of Malinowski – “more than 50 to 60 noose-hanging incidents”, incidents that began with “a black student” asking to “sit under a shady tree on campus where the white students usually hung out” only to find “two nooses dangled from the tree” the next day and included “a noose hanging in the Hempstead, Long Island police department”, “across the country […] during fall 2007” – more or less disturbing than the incidents themselves?
  8. Malinowski “proposes that applied bioethics and scientific pragmatism favor recognizing race and ethnicity as a preferred [sic] methodology for population genetics because this approach is most sensitive to personal impact on and
    1. self-identification by study subjects,
    2. communication with individual members of groups under study,
    3. realization of individual consent, recognition and assessment of group impact,
    4. the development of group consent in contemporary population genetics, and
    5. a means for inclusion for groups historically overlooked in pharmaceutical research and development and subject to health care disparities.”
      Do we agree that these are the things we ought to emphasize in our bioethical approach to race? Are there others?
  9. Civil rights and liberties seem to blossom along contentious racial bounds (at least as it has kinda-sorta in the United States and increasingly elsewhere). Why do you think that is?
  10. Hoberman notes that much of the bioethical literature on race “locate medical racism in the American past or in colonial Africa, while others analyze the medical disorders of fictional characters.” Why is it so hard to talk about the real, true, obvious, and sad facts of racism in the fields of medicine and healthcare?
  11. Analyzing 19,726 patient-visits to an emergency department of “a large, urban-based academic teaching hospital”, Schrader and Lewis found that “African Americans had a significantly longer wait time to a treatment area compared to case-matched Caucasians (10.9min; p<0.001), with much larger differences in wait times noted within certain specific chief complaint categories.” What are we to make of that? That is, how do we fix this situation?
  12. Carrese and Rhodes write that “Historically, the Navajo relationship with dominant society has been marked by conflict. Prominent examples include the military campaign of Kit Carson in 1863, the 300-mile Long Walk and subsequent incarceration of tribal members at the Bosque Redondo in New Mexico from 1864 to 1868, and the livestock reduction program of the 1930s.” Have Americans ever properly atoned for their treatment of Native Americans?
  13. Black lives matter.


Essays of possible interest

  1. Racial disparity in emergency department triage
  2. Dealing with the realities and ethnicity: a bioethics-centered argument in favor of race-based genetics research
  3. Race/Ethnicity and success in academic medicine
  4. Race and trust in the health care system
  5. Why bioethics has a race problem
  6. (Supplemental) Western bioethics on the Navajo reservation: benefit or harm?