Title

Race, Genetics, and Genetics Education

Publication Date:
Updated:

Collection Editor(s):

Collection Editor(s)
Name & Degree
Brian M. Donovan, PhD
Work Title/Institution
Research Scientist, BSCS Science Learning
Name & Degree
Daphne O. Martschenko, PhD
Work Title/Institution
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

Introduction

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 opened up the floodgates of genetic data, ushering in rapid technological and scientific change. Today, the decreasing costs of genome sequencing are changing our understandings of human identity, especially racial identity. Yet, the influence of genetic science on conceptions of racial identity is not new. For over 100 years, genetic concepts have been deeply entwined with myths about inherent racial inferiority. Today, the science of genetics continues to be used in arguments to maintain or mitigate against structures that perpetuate racial oppression. Such arguments are based in the beliefs that people hold about the relationship between race and genetics. The content of those beliefs are influenced by many factors, such as the ‘geneticization’ of race within the academy, the growing popularity of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and the prevalence of determinstic ideas about genes in American culture. Genetics education may also play a role in American racial thinking.

A growing body of research indicates that formal and informal genetics education can influence how people conceptualize the relationship between…

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The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 opened up the floodgates of genetic data, ushering in rapid technological and scientific change. Today, the decreasing costs of genome sequencing are changing our understandings of human identity, especially racial identity. Yet, the influence of genetic science on conceptions of racial identity is not new. For over 100 years, genetic concepts have been deeply entwined with myths about inherent racial inferiority. Today, the science of genetics continues to be used in arguments to maintain or mitigate against structures that perpetuate racial oppression. Such arguments are based in the beliefs that people hold about the relationship between race and genetics. The content of those beliefs are influenced by many factors, such as the ‘geneticization’ of race within the academy, the growing popularity of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and the prevalence of determinstic ideas about genes in American culture. Genetics education may also play a role in American racial thinking.

A growing body of research indicates that formal and informal genetics education can influence how people conceptualize the relationship between race and genetics, for better or worse. This collection is a compilation of publications that explores what we know about: (1) the complex relationship between genetic beliefs, racial beliefs, and prejudice; and (2) how formal and informal genetics education influences genetic beliefs about race. The reading list draws upon scholarship from social psychology, sociology, science communications, and genetics education. The readings in the first section are intended to help readers construct an understanding of how individuals conceptualize race as a genetic category and the consequences of such conceptualizations. The readings in the second section will help readers, especially educators, understand how to teach genetics in order to increase genomics literacy and decrease racial prejudice. In summary, while the use of genetic concepts to validate prejudiced ideas about race persists today, there are effective educational approaches to counteracting prejudiced beliefs whose adoption should be broadly considered.

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Section Title
Racial essentialism: Origins and consequences
Collection Header
Public belief in racial essentialism
Body
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“Extra-curricular” influences on the development of racial essentialism
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Racial essentialism as a contributor to prejudiced beliefs and behaviors
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Section Title
Formal education as a positive and negative influence on racial essentialism
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Textbook-based science instruction as an influence on the development of racial essentialism
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Reducing racial essentialism and increasing “humane genomics literacy” with genetics education curricula
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Tags
race and genetics
genetic education
Racial essentialism
Prejudice
Racial conceptualization
genomics literacy
scientific communication

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About ELSIhub Collections

ELSIhub Collections are essential reading lists on fundamental or emerging topics in ELSI, curated and explained by expert Collection Editors paired with ELSI trainees. This series assembles materials from cross-disciplinary literatures to enable quick access to key information and offers a mentored editorial experience for ELSI early career researchers and trainees.