Racial theory

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A systematic classification of people into races typical of the 19th century (after Karl Ernst von Baer , 1862)

Racial theories (also known collectively as racial science or racial theory ) are theories that divide humanity into different races . They were particularly influential in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but are now considered outdated and scientifically no longer tenable. The races were typologically differentiated primarily on the basis of external ( phenotypic ) characteristics such as skin color , hair or skull shape , but additional differences in the character and abilities of corresponding individuals were often assumed or claimed .

In different social and political environments and at different times, the term "race" was told each different uses in attempts to grouping or classification of people . In anthropology was breed from the late 17th century to the late 20th century, used to refer to the classification of people since the 19th century often synonymous with people . In addition, race concepts related to humans also emerged in ethnology and sociology .

Such subdivisions of humanity were in part only neutral attempts at classification, but in part they were also associated with valuations by allegedly distinguishing between higher and inferior races ( racism ) and asserting connections between racially determined characteristics and cultural development.

In biology today, the species Homo sapiens is neither divided into races nor into subspecies . Molecular biological and population genetic research since the 1970s has shown that a systematic division of humans into subspecies does not do justice to their enormous diversity and the fluid transitions between geographical populations. In addition, it was found that the obvious phenotypic distinguishing features of race theories are only caused by very few genes , and that most of the genetic differences in humans can instead be found within a so-called “race”. In addition, skin color, for example, is a very unstable characteristic in evolutionary terms, which means that it has changed in a relatively short period of time when human populations migrated across different latitudes. This is due to the fact that skin color is under strong selection pressure . Today anthropologists assume that the first modern humans to immigrate to Europe ( Cro-Magnon humans ) were dark-skinned.

The division of humans into biological races no longer corresponds to the state of science . However, the term is still sometimes used in biomedical research and in official parlance in some countries (such as the USA and Latin America ). The word race is not used in a biological sense, but as a social category that is largely based on a self-assessment of the people concerned.

Concept history

The use of the word race has been isolated in Romance languages ​​since the early 13th century. It became more common in the 15th century, mainly in describing noble families and in horse breeding . In the period that followed, it was increasingly used for various types of human collectives , for example for religious communities (“Christian race”) or for humanity as a whole (“human race”). It was probably first used in 1684 by François Bernier to classify people in terms of an anthropological taxonomy . In French and English, the term 'race' advanced "to a central concept in historiography" (Geulen); in German, on the other hand, it was initially rather insignificant and only gained greater popularity in the late 19th century. Germany was (in this respect too) "a belated nation".

In biological anthropology , the division of the species Homo sapiens into different races was common until the late 20th century. In the post-war literature after World War II, the population-genetic definition of race prevailed ("A race is a group of related, intermingling individuals, a population that differs from other populations by the relatively large commonality of certain heritable traits"). Since the 1970s, however, genetic studies have raised doubts about the right to speak of human races. In a "statement on the race issue" in 1995, following the UNESCO conference "Against Racism, Violence and Discrimination" in Schlaining , eighteen internationally renowned human biologists and geneticists judged that the concept of race "has become completely obsolete" in its application to human diversity and called for it to be replaced “with views and conclusions based on today's understanding of genetic diversity”. From a biological and genetic point of view, there is no longer any reason to continue using the term “race”. In 1996, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists published a statement according to which the concept of race as a definable group of people composed mainly of representatives with typical characteristics was not scientifically tenable.

Encyclopedias such as Brockhaus or Meyers Lexikon describe such typological-racial-systematic categories as "out of date" in their current editions ( Brockhaus from 2006 ). On the basis of the more recent scientific findings, in 2008 the German Institute for Human Rights spoke out in particular against the use of the term “race” in legal texts.

It will continue to be used in Article 3, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany . This also applies to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the 14th Additional Protocol to this Convention, which dates from November 4, 2000 and came into force on April 1, 2005. However, these references to the term “race” are not to be seen as legislative confirmation of a race theory, but rather they express that different treatment of people based on their association with different races is discriminatory and should therefore be rejected. The explanatory memorandum for the General Equal Treatment Act states that the law does not assume the existence of human races, but that those who behave in a racist manner accept this. The law to improve the chances of integration in the labor market of December 20, 2011 uses (in Art. 2 No. 18) the term "race".

In Norway in 2010, the legislature removed the term “race” from national laws dealing with discrimination because the term is considered problematic and unethical. The Norwegian Anti-Discrimination Act only uses the terms ethnic and national origin, descent and skin color.

In July 2018, the French National Assembly deleted the word “race” from the constitution on the grounds that it was out of date.

For more information on the use and etymology of the word race, see race .


Previous classifications

A systematic classification of people based on their origin was already developed by Aristotle . In doing so, he took over the conviction prevailing among the Greeks at the time that all other peoples (“ barbarians ”) were inferior in character and culture, and explained this from the different climatic conditions to which they were exposed. This concept of the barbarian was adopted by the Romans . With the rise of Christianity to the state religion , however, a new classification scheme took its place, which differentiated people according to their religion: Christians, Jews , pagans and heretics , later supplemented by Muslims . This classification remained authoritative in the Christian world until the early modern period .

Reconquista and Colonialism

The division of people according to their beliefs became problematic when in Spain after the conclusion of the Reconquista ( Alhambra Edict ) in 1492 the compulsory conversion of the numerous Jews to Christianity was decreed and as a result many of the forcibly "converted" secretly continued or continued to practice their previous religion were suspected of this (see also History of the Jews in Spain ). In this context, in addition to the purity of belief, the idea of ​​a “ limpieza de sangre ” (for example: “purity of blood”; what was probably meant was “purity of origin”); the term “race” became common to denote the origin of people, families or larger groups (Jewish, Christian or Moorish) (for “origin” see also social origin , descent ).

European colonialism (including the conquest of America and the transatlantic slave trade ) played an important role in the further establishment of the concept of race and the development of racial theories since the 15th and 16th centuries, resulting in continuous new knowledge about previously unknown parts of the world, ethnic groups and customs Europe arrived. The knowledge about foreign "races" at that time was based largely on reports from conquerors and missionaries who were strongly racist . The motif of the “ noble savage ”, the religious interpretation based on the biblical Genesis or the equation of foreign peoples with the lost tribes of Israel were also popular in travel reports of that time .


In the Enlightenment , “race” was initially not a biological term, but a historical concept. The French historian Henri de Boulainvilliers, in his History of the French Nobility, published in 1727, viewed the nobility and the people as two separate races, whose conflicts shaped the history of France . Augustin Thierry enriched this concept after the revolution with the idea that the nobility were of Germanic or Frankish descent and that the Gallic - Celtic people had shaken off the rule of an alien race. Similar views had previously been developed in England, where legal scholars such as Edward Coke and John Selden contrasted the Stuarts rulers as a Norman foreign race with the Anglo-Saxon population.

The need to classify mankind grew out of the Enlightenment's own conviction that the world had a meaningful order in which man also had his place, and that it was possible for human reason to recognize this order. Traditionally, a hierarchical ladder ( Scala Naturae ) was assumed, in which humans stood above animals, but were connected to them through a continuous sequence of transitions. Hence, the monkeys were placed as the highest standing animals in the immediate vicinity of the "lowest" humans, as one usually considered the blacks . This corresponded to the increasing tendency in travel reports in the course of the 18th century to no longer portray the "savages" as originally noble and in a positive way, but as backward and inferior.

Depiction of the anthropomorpha (humans, monkeys and sloths ) in the 1st edition of Linnés Systema Naturae

In the first edition of Systema Naturae (1735), Carl von Linné , the founder of biological systematics , divided people according to their geographical origin into the varieties European, American, Asian and African. In addition, he indicated a skin color in each case, which he changed several times in the later editions of the work. From the 10th edition, published in 1758, he also assigned a temperament and a posture to each of the four varieties : he described the red Americanus as choleric and upright, the white Europaeus as sanguine and muscular, the yellow Asiaticus as melancholy and stiff and the black afer as phlegmatic and limp. The classification according to temperaments was still based on the ancient four-element theory and the subsequent doctrine of the four body fluids , and it was therefore essentialist and not empirical .

The first natural scientist to use the term “race” in a systematic way to subdivide humanity and to establish it in the scientific language in this sense was Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon in his Histoire naturelle (1749).

In 1775 two works by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and Immanuel Kant were published , in which the entire human race was divided into four varieties or races. With Kant - as with many of his contemporaries - the distinction between races was associated with a superiority or subordination: in his view, races differed in their ability to educate . At the forefront of the rational were the white Europeans . He wrote: “In the hot countries, people mature earlier in all respects, but do not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of whites. The yellow Indians have less talent. The negroes are deeper, and a section of the American peoples is the deepest. ”The explanation of the racial differences by climate was taken over by Kant from French masterminds like Montesquieu at times ; later he distanced himself from it and emphasized the heredity of racial characteristics; in later texts, however, he began to question the meaning of the concept of race as such. Blumenbach coined the term “ Caucasian ” to classify the “white race” and claimed that the most aesthetically pleasing specimens of this breed came from the southern slopes of the Caucasus in Georgia . In contrast to Kant, he took the view that there are no unmistakable and unchangeable types of races, but that one races imperceptibly merge into the other. He also criticized the fact that up to now the breeds (namely Linnaeus) had been classified too schematically according to the continents, and in 1795 he added a fifth variety to his classification. He refused to distinguish between inferior and superior races. But he was also the first to speak of a “Jewish race” in the context of an anthropological taxonomy.

In addition to physical factors such as skin color and geographical distribution, aesthetic and moral evaluations often played a role in discussions of race theory at that time . So already put François Bernier in his Nouvelle Division de la Terre (1684) special attention to the different beauty of women of different races. Christoph Meiners wrote in his Outline of the History of Mankind (1785): “One of the main characteristics of the tribes and peoples is the beauty or ugliness of the whole body or face.” In this context, works of art from ancient Greece were used as ideals of beauty Moral evaluation was based on the ancient ideal of moderation and control of the passions, which was primarily conveyed by the contemporary religious revival movements of Methodism and Pietism . With physiognomics and phrenology , very popular teachings were added at times, which postulated connections between the external appearance of a person and the spiritual-moral level and soon found their way into the field of racial theories.

In the New World, and especially in the USA , a division of mankind that the British historian Edward Long made in his History of Jamaica (Chapter Negroes ) in 1774 and which was also published in Columbia Magazine in 1788 had a great influence . Long only knew blacks as slaves, and he claimed a fundamental difference between them and whites. Overall, he divided the genus Homo into three types: white (in the broadest sense), negroes (Negroes) and orangutans (including other tailless monkeys). This treatise formed the theoretical basis of anti-Negro racism in North America.

19th century

As the historian Christian Geulen writes, the first half of the 19th century was “the epoch of what was probably the broadest and most diverse use of the term race”. While it was only marginally received in the natural sciences, it enjoyed great popularity in other areas, from the categorization of new social forms of life in the rampant slums of workers in industrial cities to the identification of individual characteristics. In the second half of the century, however, initiated by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, published in 1859 , ethnology was “biologized” , whereby the concept of race was increasingly perceived as a biological category.

Map of the distribution of the human races from Meyers Konversationslexikon , 4th edition. 1885-1890

In the 19th century, reports of research trips in which zoologists, anthropologists and ethnologists took part were added as a new source of knowledge about foreign “races” .

Among the natural scientists and natural philosophers of that century who dealt with the matter, alongside Blumenbach, were Georges Cuvier , James Cowles Prichard and Louis Agassiz . Cuvier counted three races, Prichard seven, Agassiz eight. Other authors developed even finer subdivisions; so different Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent 24 and Joseph Deniker 29 races in Europe alone. The tendency to differentiate between an increasing number of races and to approximate the concept of race to that of the nation became particularly evident from the middle of the 19th century.

The French writer Arthur de Gobineau achieved great influence with his Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines ( experiment on the inequality of human races ), which appeared in four volumes from 1852 to 1854 , in which he supplemented and tried the established motif of racial struggle with the subject of racial mixing to attribute the history of peoples and nations to these two factors. It is crucial for cultural development that advancing peoples differ in their racial characteristics from others, and the mixing of races leads to decline. This was taken up by numerous other authors and formed the theoretical basis for diverse racist practices well into the 20th century. (The idea that racial mixture was harmful was plausible at the time, since heredity was thought to be linked to blood, which, as it progressed, lost valuable traits through dilution.) Gobineau's translation of the term " Aryans ", originally coined in linguistics , was also significant. in the realm of racial theories. His essai unfolded its effect particularly in the German-speaking area, where Karl Ludwig Schemann as the translator of the essay and Cosima Wagner , the influential wife of the composer Richard Wagner , were particularly committed to it.

Another motif of "racial science" that emerged towards the end of the century and soon became very popular was eugenics as the idea of ​​artificially controlling the development of races. Among the most influential advocates of this cause were Francis Galton and Houston Stewart Chamberlain . Ernst Haeckel took similar views .

In the theosophy of the Russian-American occultist Helena Blavatsky , the doctrine of the root races was spread around 1888 , according to which the spiritual development of mankind takes place in such a way that the soul of the individual person is reborn in the body of the various "root races" . This doctrine took up ariosophy in the early 20th century , and Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy in a weakened form .

20th century

“Eugenics is the self-regulation of human evolution ”: Logo of the second International Eugenics Conference, 1921

By the end of the 19th century, the development of racial theories was essentially complete. Humanity was therefore divided into three or four great races such as Europide , Mongolide , Australide and Negride as well as a multitude of races. At the turn of the century, eugenics came to the fore in the discussions of race theory, and it was put into practice in the decades that followed. The first projects to breed “racially high quality” people through targeted partner selection were started in Germany and England as early as the 1890s, and at the same time in the USA and Scandinavia the first breeding bans and forced sterilization of so-called “inferior people” came into force. Eugenic projects were also started in non-European colonies, and in 1912 the first world eugenics congress took place in London. In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics was considered one of the most innovative sciences, and it received government support almost everywhere.

Racial biological thinking experienced the sharpest escalation and radicalization during National Socialism . There it was not just part of the propaganda , but a central point of ideology and politics. Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf contained an extensive chapter on eugenics, and he viewed the war he unleashed, including the so-called concentration camps , as a struggle for survival between races. The Lebensborn was built in 1935 . The " National Socialist Racial Hygiene " was also supported by German scientists. Of the best-known anthropologists , human geneticists and racial hygienists of the Nazi era, whose personnel files are stored in the Berlin Document Center (BDC), more than 90% were members of the NSDAP . The University of Jena was a center of racial-biological ideology . During National Socialism there were four professors for human race studies with Hans FK Günther , Karl Astel , Gerhard Heberer and Victor Julius Franz .

In 1942 anthropologist Ashley Montagu , who later became UNESCO rapporteur on the Statement of Race , published his book Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race , an influential discussion that argued that race was a social concept with no genetic basis.

After the Second World War and the atrocities of the Holocaust , UNESCO set up a committee of anthropologists and sociologists from different countries in 1949 to draft a declaration on the racial issue that was published in 1950. It was noted that in common parlance mostly groups of people were referred to as "races" which did not correspond to the valid definition of this term in science, such as Americans, Catholics or Jews. Insofar as human races are spoken of in the context of science (e.g. when differentiating between Mongolids, Negroids and Caucasoids), this only refers to physical and physiological differences. On the other hand, there is no evidence of any notable racial differences in mental properties such as intelligence or temperament . Likewise, there are no significant racial differences in social or cultural terms. Furthermore, from the point of view of biology, there is no evidence that mixing races has adverse effects. This declaration was followed in 1965 by the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . In practice, however, remained in the southern United States until the late 1960s segregationist obtained, and in South Africa that was apartheid overcome until the 1990th

21st century

The term “race” as a term for ethnic groups or in the sense of self-attribution in official questionnaires is still used in the USA today, see the main article → Race (United States Census) .

In the Latin American area, the population groups of many countries are still assigned to “races”, whereby the Latin American term raza includes biological and ethno-cultural dimensions. The classification is reflected in pronounced hierarchies between the various “races” (e.g. in Brazil or Guatemala). The upper class of most Latin American states consists mainly of “whites”, while Indians and blacks primarily make up the bulk of the lower class. A very large part of the population of Latin America is formed today due to the centuries-old mixing of people of Indian and European descent. The term mestizo is used for them in the cultural and “racial” homogenization concepts of Latin America (see also mulatto for descendants of European and African people) . Above all, it serves to establish a national identity. As a rule, whites and the “white culture” - which are oriented towards Europe and the USA - are considered superior, which is why they should be adapted from other cultures.

Criticism and overcoming

An early critic of the racial theories of Linnaeus, Kant and Blumenbach was Johann Gottfried Herder , who in his ideas on the philosophy of the history of mankind (1784-1791) rejected a division of mankind into races.

Around 1900 there were critical voices in the German-speaking area that attributed to racial biology joint responsibility for the increasing anti-Semitism and addressing anti-Semitic phenomena within biology and anthropology. The existence of human races was not fundamentally called into question; the criticism turned against the assumption of an Aryan and a Semitic (Jewish) race and against the valuation of races as higher or lower.

As a reaction to the racist politics of the National Socialists, Julian Huxley and Alfred C. Haddon wrote their book " We Europeans: A Survey of Racial Problems ", published in 1935 , in which they stated that there is no scientific basis for the assumption of different, demarcated human races within Europe Basis. They rejected such classifications on the basis of phenotypic or somatic characteristics and assessments based on them as pseudoscientific. They called for the term “race” to be deleted from the scientific vocabulary and for “ ethnic groups ” to be used instead of human races , as these have no biological reference but are defined sociologically. The biological systematization of the European types of people is a subjective process and the myth of racism is only an attempt to justify nationalism . However, they stuck to the subdivision of the entire human race into three large groups, although they suggested, however, that in this case too we should no longer speak of races but of subspecies.

Until the 1990s, however, the talk of human races remained in use in biology. So contains Kindler's Encyclopedia Man (1982) two chapters on "The racial diversity of humanity" and "racial history and racial evolution", and Herder Dictionary of Biology from 1983 to 1987, reprinted in 1994, the entry will begin human races with the words: "Like other biological Species, today's Homo sapiens (humans) are divided into relatively uniform races with characteristic gene combinations ”. Correspondingly, the historian Imanuel Geiss also called the existence of human races “as a real historical reality in its elementary nature indisputable” in his History of Racism , published in 1988 .

Global distribution of skin colors among indigenous peoples , based on von Luschan's color scale

Population geneticists such as Richard Lewontin and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza have been arguing since the 1970s that external differences such as skin and hair color, hair structure and nose shape are merely adaptations to different climatic and nutritional conditions that are only determined by a small subgroup of genes. In fact, North American Indians resemble Europeans more than South American Indians in the external features traditionally used to distinguish races, although they are much more closely related to the latter in terms of origins, and the Australian Aborigines , who have long been isolated from the rest of humanity, appear to be Relatively similar to black Africans.

The geneticists used the term biological population . To distinguish it from the unsuitable concept of race, Cavalli-Sforza defined it for humans more statistically than biologically: “A group of individuals who live in a precisely defined space of any kind.” A (human) population therefore corresponds to the heterogeneous population of one Territory and not a (supposedly homogeneous ) race. An arbitrarily chosen delimitation is chosen that does not refer to any typological features. It may be irritating that the old breed names can still be found in human genetic studies. Here the boundaries of the populations were deliberately drawn according to racial theories in order to subsequently refute them. Cavalli-Sforza writes in this context: "Of course one must choose the populations to be examined in such a way that one obtains interesting results."

In the Schlaining Declaration of 1995, a group of scientists declared that the distinction between human races as inherently homogeneous and clearly delimitable populations had proven untenable due to recent advances in molecular biology and population genetics. The genetic diversity of humanity is only of a gradual nature and does not reveal any major discontinuities. Therefore any typological approach to the subdivision of humanity is unsuitable. Furthermore, the hereditary differences between different groups of people are only small compared to the variance within these groups. Due to external differences, which are only adaptations to different environmental conditions, to assume fundamental genetic differences, is a fallacy. The American Association of Anthropologists issued a statement in 1998 that was consistent in tenor, but tailored to the special, historically conditioned circumstances in the USA.

Population genetic studies have shown that about 85% of genetic variation is found within populations such as the French or the Japanese. In contrast, the genetic differences between the “races” traditionally differentiated on the basis of skin color are comparatively small at around 6 to 10%. In addition, these supposedly race-specific differences do not reveal any clear boundaries on closer examination of the geographical distribution. The transitions between the "races" are (with the exception of the Australian Aborigines) fluid. These empirical findings that through advances in sequencing of DNA and proteins were enabled meant that today the vast majority of anthropologists rejects a division of mankind into races.

Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza explain the discrepancy between the difference in external appearance and the uniformity of the genetic makeup as follows in their book Different and Yet Equal (1994):

"The genes that react to the climate [in the course of evolution ] influence the external characteristics of the body, because adaptation to the climate primarily requires a change in the body surface (which, so to speak, represents the interface between our organism and the outside world). . It is precisely because these traits are external that the differences between the races are so obvious that we believe that equally blatant differences exist for the rest of the genetic makeup. But that is not the case: in terms of the rest of our genetic makeup, we differ only slightly from one another. "

The argument that the genetic variance within a group of Homo sapiens is greater than that between different groups was criticized in 2003 by the geneticist and evolutionary biologist Anthony WF Edwards: The statement only applies if one considers alleles at a single gene locus . However, if one looks at intercorrelation patterns between different genes and the resulting gene clusters , as they can be obtained using more modern methods such as cluster analysis or principal component analysis , the picture is reversed. Edwards argues that if you look at a certain number of genes rather than just individual genes, you can certainly assign an individual to a specific, biologically defined group. The article in which he presented his thoughts was referred to as "Lewontin's fallacy", alluding to his colleagues. His colleague David J. Witherspoon was able to experimentally confirm this thesis in 2007 by using multilocus sequence typing to record several hundred loci at the same time. However, it remains questionable to what extent references to the socio-cultural “concept of race” can be derived from these genetic variations.

Edwards' criticism was dismissed by biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks. Racial theory tried to discover large clusters of people who are homogeneous within their own and heterogeneous to other groups. Lewontin's analysis showed that such groups do not exist in the human species, and Edwards' criticism does not contradict this interpretation.

The anthropologist Ulrich Kattmann takes the view "that the racial classifications of anthropologists from the beginning until today are not scientifically based, but arise from everyday ideas and socio-psychological needs". In addition, they are generally associated with judgmental discrimination and are therefore racist. Kattmann cites the largely arbitrary construction of skin colors as an example of the socio-psychological condition. The Chinese have been called "yellow" since Linnaeus, although their skin is by no means yellow, but rather corresponds to that of "white" southern Europeans in terms of average pigmentation . Neither are the Indians , the indigenous peoples of America, red.

In German-speaking countries, as the science historian Veronika Lipphardt writes, racial biology “in a historical review of National Socialism […] became the epitome of pseudoscience .” In this context, “racial theorists”, namely Gobineau and Chamberlain, are considered “non-scientific”, from them lead a “direct line” to Hitler's Mein Kampf and the Nazi state's policy of extermination . Since the defeat of National Socialism in 1945, racial biology has been exposed as a false doctrine and has been overcome. However, there are two findings that speak against this narrative , Lipphardt continues. On the one hand, racial biology in Germany and elsewhere was "called pseudoscience long before 1945," on the other hand, the history of racial biology did not end with the defeat of the Nazi regime, either in Germany or anywhere else. The concept of population offered new opportunities to research human diversity. A division of mankind into a few groups has been preserved in various academic and non-academic contexts.

Cavalli-Sforza suggests 38 geographically distinguishable human populations according to their genetic relationship and their affiliation to 20 language families and is based on the classification of Merritt Ruhlen .

Since 2013 Brandenburg - like Thuringia from the beginning - has dispensed with the concept of race in its constitution. Article 12 paragraph 2 of the constitution of the state of Brandenburg now reads: "Nobody may be preferred or disadvantaged because of their origin, nationality, [...] or for racist reasons." Article 2 paragraph 3 of the constitution of the Free State of Thuringia reads: "Nobody may because of his origin, his descent, his ethnicity, [...] are preferred or disadvantaged. "

In 2019, the German Zoological Society under Martin S. Fischer , Uwe Hoßfeld , Johannes Krause and Stefan Richter passed the Jena Declaration , according to which the race concept is “the result of racism and not its prerequisite”. Other prominent members such as the forensic biologist and politician Mark Benecke welcomed the decision and called for Article 3 of the Basic Law to be amended . An article in Die Zeit evaluated the declaration primarily as a political symbol at a time when racist ideas were increasingly moving into the center of society. The anti-Semitism commissioner of the German federal government, Felix Klein , spoke out in favor of removing the term “race” from the Basic Law, as this term was “a social construct”. On the other hand, Andrea Lindholz (CSU), chairwoman of the Committee on Home Affairs and Home Affairs in the Bundestag since 2018 , decided against deleting the word “race” in the German constitution, which she describes as a “rather helpless sham debate”. A deletion could also complicate the case law, she said. In Stephan Hebel's view , however, with this “middle-class racism” she “exemplifies behavior that favors racist structures through tolerance and refuses to resist”.

“Races” in Biomedical Research

The term “race”, apart from its other uses, experienced a certain renaissance within biomedical research in the USA. This is related to the endeavors called pharmacogenetics to make use of individual characteristics of the genetic make-up, which can affect the tendency to illness or the reaction to medication, to improve therapy. So-called personalized medicine actually strives for individual treatment for each person, but some medical professionals also see an advantage in the differentiated treatment of groups of people of different genetic origins (so-called stratified, i.e. layered, medicine). In the USA, government agencies such as the FDA recommend collecting data on “race”, in addition to information on age and gender, for example in the context of clinical studies , the first version of which dates from 2003. For state recipients Research funding, e.g. from the HHS , is mandatory. The categories used are those of the American statistical authorities and the census (see article Race (United States Census) ); they are collected according to the self-assessment of the participants. The guidelines are intended, among other things, to prevent the selection of test subjects (previously mostly white, young, mostly healthy members of the social middle and upper classes, e.g. students) from remaining unrecognized in the studies with the special needs of numerous groups of people . Right from the start, however, the focus was also on the development of drugs tailored to specific patient groups. The use of the term “race” as defined in this way has been controversial from the outset, both inside and outside the technical debate. Many are of the opinion that the data is only used by the political guidelines and, because it is there, not because a particular benefit of the application has been empirically determined; they could develop a life of their own that is no longer covered by facts. In addition, other variables falsify the picture, for example people with black skin, especially in the USA, mostly belong to the lower social class with a certain way of life, which means that statistically significant results as a causal explanatory model are also doubtful. Direct guarantees of origin determined directly after genetic markers could, however, possibly be superior to the assignments.

In Europe, the term race is avoided in all contexts, but statistical data on ethnicity are collected, a term which, in addition to social components, is also at least partially interpreted in the sense of a common ancestry and genetic relationship (see ethnicity ). The group affiliations surveyed differ within the EU and from those used in the USA; their use in medical research is only an exception here.

The basis of the approach is that humans also inherit part of their genetic variation through their biological ancestors . Each allele goes back to a mutation at some point . Alleles from people with an extremely large number of offspring are therefore enriched in these offspring in a group-specific manner, with more and more alleles from the other ancestors and from later, new mutations being added. Due to the very high genetic uniformity of mankind compared to other animal species (which goes back to the low genetic age of the current population due to migratory movements only a few tens of thousands of years ago), the proportion is small compared to other species. About 85 to 90 percent of the more common alleles (those that are present in at least five percent of the population) are distributed identically between people on different continents. Among the alleles are some that reduce the fitness of individuals or cause disease, collectively referred to as the "mutation load". Due to the history of human expansion, in which the descendants of a small founding population were often able to repopulate entire continents, rare adverse alleles based on the “serial genetic bottleneck ” model could possibly accumulate in (non-African) human populations. Others probably spread like a piggyback through combination with favorable alleles, or pleiotropic beneficial effects on other traits. Famous cases of hereditary diseases due to disease-promoting alleles in groups of people are Tay-Sachs syndrome in the Ashkenazim (the Central and Northern European Jews and their descendants), cystic fibrosis in all Europeans, and sickle cell anemia in some populations of African origin.

Despite extensive research into the potential benefits of different drugs for people of different "races", the success of this approach to date has remained small. Some initially promising case studies, especially on beta blockers or warfarin for heart disease, ultimately produced hardly any clinically useful results, since the individual variation has proven to be too great, so that ultimately the individual genome is again decisive. The controversy surrounding BiDil, the first drug that was specifically approved by the American FDA in 2005 for the treatment of heart disease in blacks, has become famous. Although many doctors were willing to give the drug especially to black patients, the fierce criticism has meanwhile led to a significant decline in expectations. Important points of criticism are the low scientific and methodological standard of some of the studies used for approval as well as the manufacturer's marketing considerations that have become known (the product, a mixture of two long-known substances, would only have been patentable for a generally applicable drug for a very short time). In some disciplines, such as psychiatry, the previous benefit of the approach is questioned as a whole.

See also


  • Nicolas Bancel, Thomas David, Dominic Thomas (Eds.): The Invention of Race: Scientific and Popular Representations. Routledge, 2014, ISBN 978-0-415-74393-8 .
  • Elazar Barkan: The Retreat of Scientific Racism. Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States. CUP, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-39193-8 .
  • Frank Böckelmann : The yellow, the black, the white. Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-8218-4475-2 .
  • Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza , Francesco Cavalli-Sforza: Different and yet the same. A geneticist removes the basis of racism ("Chi siamo"). Knaur, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-426-77242-6 .
  • Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: Genes, peoples and languages: the biological foundations of our civilization (“Geni, populi e lingue”). Dtv, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-33061-9 .
  • Werner Conze , Antje Sommer: Race. In: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (eds.): Basic historical concepts. Historical lexicon on political and social language in Germany. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-608-91500-1 (here: Volume 5, pp. 135-178).
  • Walter Demel : How the Chinese turned yellow. A contribution to the early history of racial theories. (= Small contributions to European overseas history. Issue 21). Bamberg 1993, DNB 940713470 .
  • Thomas Etzemüller: In search of the Nordic man. German racial anthropology in the modern world. Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2015, ISBN 978-3-8376-3183-8 .
  • Ivan Hannaford: Race: The history of an idea in the West. Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8018-5223-4 .
  • Uwe Hossfeld : History of biological anthropology in Germany. From the beginning until the post-war period. Steiner, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-515-08563-7 .
  • Heidrun Kaupen-Haas , Christian Saller (Hrsg.): Scientific racism. Analysis of continuity in human and natural sciences. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-593-36228-7 .
  • Richard Lewontin : It's not the genes ... biology, ideology and human nature (“Not in our genes”). Psychologie-Verlag-Union, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-621-27036-1 .
  • Stefan Lorenz, Werner Buselmaier: Art. Race. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy . 8, 1992, col. 25-29.
  • Frank Thieme: Racial Theories Between Myth and Taboo . The contribution of the social sciences to the emergence and impact of racial ideology in Germany. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-631-40682-7 (also dissertation at the University of Bochum 1987).

Web links

Commons : Racial Theory  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Pfeifer (Ed.): Etymological Dictionary of German. dtv, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-423-03358-4 , pp. 1084-1085.
  2. Nina G. Jablonski, George Chaplin (2000): The evolution of human skin coloration. doi: 10.1006 / jhev.2000.0403
  3. Thorwald Ewe: The Neanderthals disappeared when modern humans came. But precisely these successful "newcomers" are - as far as fossils are concerned - invisible . In: bild-der-wissenschaft.de , edition: 11/2013, page 36 - Life & Environment, accessed on August 16, 2017.
  4. Werner Conze , Antje Sommer: Race. In: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (eds.): Basic historical concepts. Historical lexicon on political and social language in Germany. Volume 5, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-91500-1 , pp. 135–178, here p. 137.
  5. Christian Geulen : History of Racism. CH Beck, Munich 2007, p. 13 f. (Details / review of the book here ); on the transition from horse races to human races cf. Arnd Krüger : A Horse Breeder's Perspective: Scientific Racism in Germany. 1870-1933. In: N. Finzsch, D. Schirmer (Ed.): Identity and Intolerance. Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States . University Press, Cambridge 1998, pp. 371-396.
  6. Geulen, p. 36 f.
  7. Imanuel Geiss : History of Racism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-518-11530-8 , pp. 17 and 148.
  8. Geulen, p. 60.
  9. See for example Herder Lexicon of Biology. Spectrum Akademischer Verlag, 1994, Volume 5, p. 408, or Wolfgang Hennig : Genetics. Springer, 1995, p. 703.
  10. ^ LC Dunn: Race and Biology. Berlin 1951 (= series of publications by UNESCO: The modern science of racial issues. ), P. 20 .; quoted from Kornelia Grundmann: The Race Skull Collection of the Marburg Museum Anatomicum as an example for the craniology of the 19th century and its development up to the time of National Socialism. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 13, 1995, pp. 351-370; here: p. 366 f.
  11. ^ A b c R. C. Lewontin : Confusions about Human Races. in the web forum Is Race "Real"? of the Social Science Research Council , 2006.
  12. a b Declaration by Schlaining: Against Racism, Violence and Discrimination (PDF), 1995, Section II: “On the obsolete concept of 'race'”.
  13. AAPA statement on biological aspects of race. In: American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Volume 101, 1996, pp. 569f; an insignificantly changed version was posted on the AAPA homepage in 2009 .
  14. See for example the article: “Human races” ( Memento of December 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive ); “Europiden” ( Memento of December 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive ); "Mongolids" ( memento of December 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive ); “Negriden” ( memento of December 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) in Meyers Lexikon Online; Lexicon of Biology, Volume 11, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-8274-0336-7 , p. 421. (Article: Race)
  15. ^ German Institute for Human Rights (ed.); Hendrik Cremer: "... and what race do you belong to?" On the problem of the term “race” in legislation. (= Policy Paper. No. 10). August 2008, ISSN  1614-2195 (PDF).
  16. Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
  17. ↑ Rationale for the General Equal Treatment Act (of June 8, 2006; PDF; 648 kB)
  18. Federal Law Gazette 2011 I p. 2854.
  19. ^ Jon Dagsland Holgersen (23 July 2010) Rasebegrepet på vei ut av loven ( Memento from 26 July 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Aftenposten . Retrieved December 10, 2013
  20. Rase: Et ubrukelig ord Aftenposten . Retrieved December 10, 2013
  21. ^ Ministry of Labor The Law to Prevent Discrimination Based on Ethnicity , Religion etc. Regjeringen.no; Retrieved December 10, 2013
  22. ^ France deletes “race” from the constitution FAZ Frankfurter Allgemeine online, updated on July 12, 2018.
  23. Geulen, pp. 19-23.
  24. Geulen, pp. 24–32.
  25. Geulen, pp. 32-36.
  26. Geulen, p. 41.
  27. George L. Mosse : The history of racism in Europe. Frankfurt am Main 2006, p. 34 f. (Note: the original title was published in 1978 ( Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism ); the German translation was first published in 1990)
  28. Geulen, p. 48 f.
  29. Geulen, p. 54.
  30. Mosse, pp. 28-31.
  31. Mosse, p. 35 f.
  32. a b Ulrich Kattmann: Racism, biology and race theory. Web article on Future Needs Reminder, accessed August 3, 2019.
  33. ^ Carl von Linné: Systema Naturae. 10th edition. 1758, pp. 20-22. ( online )
  34. Nicholas Hudson: From "nation" to "race": The origin of racial classification in eighteenth-century thought. In: Eighteenth-Century Studies. 29 (3), 1996, pp. 247-264, here p. 253.
  35. ^ Geulen, p. 57.
  36. ^ Pauline small change. "Kant's second thoughts on race." The Philosophical Quarterly 57, no. 229 (2007): 573-592. "Kant's Third Thoughts on Race" in "Reading Kant's Geography". Robert Bernasconi eds. Stuart Elden and Eduardo Mendieta, Albany: SUNY Press, 2011, pp. 291-318.
  37. quoted in Eisler
  38. Geulen, p. 51 f.
  39. ^ Geulen, p. 59.
  40. Christian Geulen: "The way to exclusion." In: DAMALS Jg. 50, 6/2018, p. 21.
  41. ^ Hudson, p. 255.
  42. Mosse, p. 41.
  43. Geiss, p. 160.
  44. a b Mosse, pp. 28-38.
  45. Hudson, p. 252.
  46. p. 43, quoted from Mosse, p. 37.
  47. Mosse, pp. 47-54.
  48. Geiss, p. 159.
  49. Geulen, p. 69.
  50. Geulen, p. 69 f.
  51. Ilse Jahn , Rolf Löther, Konrad Senglaub (eds.): History of Biology. Jena 1985, p. 545.
  52. Jahn et al. a., p. 548.
  53. Hudson, p. 258.
  54. Geulen, pp. 71-73.
  55. Jahn et al. a., p. 554 f.
  56. Mosse, p. 67 f.
  57. Mosse, p. 80 f.
  58. Mosse, pp. 96-99; Geulen, p. 74.
  59. Mosse, pp. 109–111.
  60. James A. Santucci: The Notion of Race in Theosophy. In: Nova Religio. The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 11, No. 3, 2008, pp. 37-63.
  61. ^ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke : The Occult Roots of Nazism. Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Ideology. Tauris Parke, London 2005.
  62. ^ Peter Staudenmaier: Race and Redemption. Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy. In: Nova Religio. The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 11. Issue 3, 2008, pp. 4-36.
  63. Geulen, p. 90.
  64. Geulen, p. 92 f.
  65. ^ Geulen, p. 93.
  66. Geulen, p. 97 f.
  67. Benoit Massin: Anthropology and human genetics in National Socialism. In: Heidrun Kaupen-Haas, Christian Saller: Scientific racism. Campus Verlag, March 1999, ISBN 3-593-36228-7 , p. 37.
  68. a b Andreas Sentker: Racism: It doesn't get the same! In: The time . September 12, 2019, ISSN  0044-2070 ( zeit.de [accessed October 8, 2019]).
  69. David Reich , How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race' , New York Times , March 23, 2018
  70. The Race Question (PDF; 609 kB) UNESCO 1950.
  71. Geulen, p. 103 f.
  72. Elke Mader: 5.1.2 Race, culture and power in cultural and social anthropology of Latin America, an introduction. Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna , February 15, 2012, requested on September 16, 2017.
  73. Anne Löchte: Johann Gottfried Herder - Cultural history and humanity idea of ideas, humanity letters and Adrastea. Königshausen & Neumann, 2005, p. 45.
  74. Veronika Lipphardt: The "black sheep" of the life sciences. Marginalization and Rehabilitation of Racial Biology in the 20th Century. In: Dirk Rupnow, Veronika Lipphardt, Jens Thiel, Christina Wessely (Eds.): Pseudoscience. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008, pp. 223–250, here pp. 227–232.
  75. ^ Lipphardt, p. 233.
  76. Robert Miles: Racism. Introduction to the history and theory of a term. Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 3-88619-389-6 , p. 60; Veronika Lipphardt, Kiran Klaus Patel : In Search of the European - Scientific Constructions of Homo Europaeus. In: European History Thematic Portal. 2007. [1] ; Elazar Barkan: The Retreat of Scientific Racism. Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 296-310.
  77. Barkan, p. 300; Lipphardt and Patel.
  78. Herbert Wendt, Norbert Loacker (ed.): Kindler's Enzyklopädie der Mensch. Volume II: The Development of Humanity. Kindler, Zurich 1982, pp. 315–338 and 339–380.
  79. Human races . Volume 5, 1994, p. 408.
  80. Geiss, p. 21.
  81. Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza: Different and yet the same. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1994, pp. 189-195.
  82. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: Genes, Peoples and Languages: The biological foundations of our civilization. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1999, pp. 25, 39–42, 43f, 232.
  83. ^ Statement on "Race" by the American Anthropological Association of May 17, 1998.
  84. Lynn B. Jorde, Stephen P. Wooding: Genetic variation, classification and 'race'. In: Nature Genetics . Volume 36, 2004, pp. 28-33, doi: 10.1038 / ng1435 .
  85. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, p. 203.
  86. a b A. WF Edwards: Human genetic diversity: Lewontin's fallacy. In: BioEssays. 25 (8), 2003, pp. 798-801. doi: 10.1002 / bies.10315
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  88. Jonathan Michael Kaplan, Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther: Prisoners of Abstraction? The Theory and Measure of Genetic Variation, and the Very Concept of 'Race'. In: Biological Theory. 7, 2012, pp. 401-412. doi: 10.1007 / s13752-012-0048-0
  89. Jonathan Marks: Ten facts about Human Variation. In: Michael P. Muehlenbein (Ed.): Human Evolutionary Biology , Cambridge University Press 2010, p. 270.
  90. Ulrich Kattmann: Why and with what effect do scientists classify people? In: Heidrun Kaupen-Haas, Christian Saller (Hrsg.): Scientific racism - analyzes of a continuity in the human and natural sciences. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999, p. 65 ff. ( Online )
  91. Here Kattmann refers to Walter Demel : How the Chinese turned yellow. A contribution to the early history of racial theories. In: Historical magazine. 255, 1992, pp. 625-666.
  92. on the conceptual history cf. Nancy Shoemaker: How Indians Got to be Red. In: American Historical Review. Vol. 102, No. 3, 1997, pp. 625-644.
  93. Lipphardt, p. 223 f.
  94. Lipphardt, p. 224 f.
  95. Harald Haarmann: Small Lexicon of Nations. CH Beck, Munich 2004.
  96. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza: Genes, Peoples and Languages: The biological foundations of our civilization. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1999.
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  105. Stephan Hebel in the Friday 25/2020: [2]
  106. a current overview: Koffi N. Maglo, Tesfaye B. Mersha, Lisa J. Martin (2016): Population Genomics and the Statistical Values ​​of Race: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Biological Classification of Human Populations and Implications for Clinical Genetic Epidemiological Research. In: Frontiers in Genetics 7: 22. doi: 10.3389 / fgene.2016.00022
  107. ^ FDA Office of Minority Health (editor): Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data in Clinical Trials. Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff. October 2016 PDF download , including older and other documents.
  108. ^ White House Office for Management and Budget: Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, October 30, 1997
  109. ^ Susanne B. Haga & J. Craig Venter (2003): FDA Races in Wrong Direction. In: Science 301 (5632): 466. doi: 10.1126 / science.1087004
  110. Timothy Caulfield, Stephanie M Fullerton, Sarah E Ali-Khan, Laura Arbor, Esteban G Burchard, Richard S Cooper, Billie-Jo Hardy, Simrat Harry, Robyn Hyde-Lay, Jonathan Kahn, Rick Kittles, Barbara A Koenig, Sandra SJ Lee, Michael Malinowski, Vardit Ravitsky, Pamela Sankar, Stephen W Scherer, Béatrice Séguin, Darren Shickle, Guilherme Suarez-Kurtz Abdallah S Daar (2009): Race and ancestry in biomedical research: exploring the challenges. In: Genome Medicine 2009, 1: 8 ( doi: 10.1186 / gm8 )
  111. James Y. Nazroo, David R. Williams: The social determination of ethnic / racial inequalities in health. Chapter 12 in Michael Marmot and Richard Wilkinson: Social Determinants of Health. Oxford University Press, 2009. doi: 10.1093 / acprof: oso / 9780198565895.003.12
  112. Stephen A. Spector, Sean S. Brummel, Caroline M. Nievergelt, Adam X. Maihofer, Kumud K. Singh, Murli U. Purswani, Paige L. Williams, Rohan Hazra, Russell Van Dyke, George R. Seage III (2016 ): Genetically determined ancestry is more informative than self-reported race in HIV-infected and -exposed children. In: Medicine 95: 36. doi: 10.1097 / MD.0000000000004733
  113. on the approaches in European countries cf. Jürgen HP Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, Uwe Warner (2010): The Concept of Ethnicity and its Operationalization in Cross-National Social Surveys. In: Metodološki zvezki 7 (2): 107-132.
  114. an overview: Brenna M. Henn, Laura R. Botigué, Carlos D. Bustamante, Andrew G. Clark, Simon Gravel (2015): Estimating the mutation load in human genomes. In: Nature Reviews Genetics 16: 333-343. doi: 10.1038 / nrg3931
  115. ^ Charles N. Rotimi, Lynn B. Jorde (2010): Ancestry and Disease in the Age of Genomic Medicine. In: New England Journal of Medicine 363: 1551-1558. doi: 10.1056 / NEJMra0911564
  116. ^ Mathew R. Taylor, Albert Y. Sun, Gordon Davis, Mona Fiuzat, Stephen B. Liggett, Michael R. Bristow (2014): Race, Common Genetic Variation, and Therapeutic Response Disparities in Heart Failure. In: JACC Heart Failure 2 (6): 561-572. doi: 10.1016 / j.jchf.2014.06.010
  117. SE Kimmel (2015): Warfarin pharmacogenomics: current best evidence. In: Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 13: S266-S271 doi: 10.1111 / jth.12978
  118. Katarzyna Drozda, Shan Wong, Shitalben R. Patel, Adam P. Bress, Edith A. Nutescu, Rick A. Kittles, Larisa H. Cavallari (2015): Poor Warfarin Dose Prediction with Pharmacogenetic Algorithms that Exclude Genotypes Important for African Americans. In: Pharmacogenetics and Genomics 25 (2): 73-81. doi: 10.1097 / FPC.0000000000000108
  119. Koffi N. Maglo, Jack Rubinstein, Bin Huang, Richard F. Ittenbach (2014): BiDil in the Clinic: An Interdisciplinary Investigation of Physicians' Prescription Patterns of a Race-Based Therapy. In: AJOB (American journal of bioethics) Empirical Bioethics 5 (4): 37-52. doi: 10.1080 / 23294515.2014.907371
  120. Jonathan Kahn: Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in a Post-Genomic Age. In: Columbia University Press , 2012. ISBN 978-0-231-16299-9 .
  121. Steven L. Dubovsky (2016): The Limitations of Genetic Testing in Psychiatry. In: Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 85: 129-135. doi: 10.1159 / 000443512
  122. Linda M. Hunt & Meta J. Kreiner (2013): Pharmacogenetics in Primary Care: The Promise of Personalized Medicine and the Reality of Racial Profiling. In: Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1): 226-235. doi: 10.1007 / s11013-012-9303-x