The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Race is an ineffective social construct.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/8/2017 Category: Science
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 686 times Debate No: 101813
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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First round is acceptance only.

I argue that race is a poor way of categorising genetic differences and should be discarded as an ineffective social construct.
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I would like start by pointing out that different cultures have different concepts of race. In the United States, the great racial divide is seen as being between those of European descent, or "whites", and those of African descent, or "blacks". There is a long history of suffering amongst the latter as a result of the former justified through the espousal of the idea that those of African descent are somehow inferior. Two populations of the same species were, and still are, treated differently on the grounds of minor genetic variations. Do you know how many genes a black man and a white man generally share? Greater than 99%. In fact, you share at least 99% of DNA with every human you have ever come across. Genetically speaking, the first "black" President of the United States was as much white as he was black. George Zimmerman, the "white" man who shot dead a youth of African descent is, genetically speaking, as white as Obama. This is my problem with the social construct of race. It is illogical. I understand that, as humans, we seek to identify patterns and classify everything, but the classifications we use for fellow members of our species are inconsistent.

Where I come from, the UK, there is a history of a racial struggle between two populations. Ever since the Irish parliament swore fealty and granted the Kingdom of Ireland to King Henry VIII in 1541, there has been a difficult and often bloody Anglo-Irish relationship. Actions and events such as the Cromwellian war in Ireland, the Penal Laws and The Troubles all highlight how, based on nothing more than small genetic variation and cultural differences, the British aristocracy was capable of painting a group of people who were far more similar that different, both genetically and culturally, as inferior thus justifying the sustained and ruinous actions against them. Those of Anglo-Saxon descent and Irish descent generally share similarities in skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, in adherence to Christianity, in geography, in customs and norms and yet the Irish are considered a distinct racial group. "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs" was a sign seen frequently on boarding houses around Britain. How can two groups of people who share so much in common, at least 99% of the same genetic information, be considered wholly separate racial entities, how can they be comparable to dogs, an entirely separate species?

On the topic of dogs, they're quite similar to us in that they have a wide range of minute genetic variations that lead them to be aesthetically different. There are a few differences that constitute the difference between a Doberman and a King Charles, but at the end of the day, they don't care. They'll sniff any old dogs arse, regardless of difference.


A social construct is just a convenient way for people to easily communicate some facts to each other. Race is an effective social construct, because it can be used to help identify people. If the police are chasing a bad guy, then it is much easier to say something like "in foot pursuit of a white male headed east on MLK" then it is to come up with more precise details.
The most important reason for this effective social construct I can think of is health reasons. By asking patients race on the form everyone feels out when getting a new doctor, they can easily identify certain risk factors and focus on preventing those problems. Some diseases can actually be pretty race specific. For example, One article state:

"It is well known that some diseases are more common in particular racial or ethnic groups than in others, for example, cystic fibrosis among people of European ancestry, sickle cell disease among those of African and Mediterranean ancestry, and Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazi Jews. Lactase deficiency, which can cause difficulties for those whose diets include lactose, is common in virtually all populations except those that trace their ancestry to Europe and a few regions in Africa, the Middle East, and south and central Asia."

My opponent by eliminating this social construct would take away a very useful tool for doctors. Another reason race as a social construct is important, is because being color blind would take away our ability to empathize with groups of people who were marginalized and still face the repercussions for that to this very day.
Debate Round No. 2


I am not, for one moment, arguing that social constructs are bad in their own right. Most are useful, like language and government. Race, however, is entirely ineffective. My opponent raises the argument of assisting with identification and uses the example of a police description. In the United Kingdom, our police fulfil this need using Identity Codes or ICs. For instance: IC1 refers to a person of Northern European descent; IC2 refers to someone of South European descent; IC3 refers to someone of Afro-Carribean descent; IC4 refers to those of South Asian descent; IC5 refers to those of East Asian descent; IC6 refers to someone of North African or Middle Eastern descent. Are you noticing something here? Descent.

You also cite the fact that some diseases are "race specific". The only time it is important to categorise a patient as part of a larger group is epidemiologically. The individual specifics are always more telling of genetic afflictions than broad stereotyping. I think it is important to understand that race self-identification is is a poor surrogate for understanding a patient's genetically conditioned health. There are a myriad of things to take into account when a patient comes to a doctor. Often, what seems to be the result of a person's phenotype is actually a consequence of their socioeconomic status as opposed to their ancestral geography. Take for instance the "Population-based fracture risk assessment and osteoporosis treatment disparities by race and gender" study by J Gen Intern Med. (specifically: 24: 956"62) from 2009. In short, it found that, because African-Americans were thought to have stronger bones, those that self-identified as a African-American were less likely to be prescribed Osteoporosis medication, even though the initial claim was false. Thus, racial stereotypes may overshadow actual individual problems. Another thing to note is that individual genetic assessment is becoming more affordable and fast. It could be, in the near future, that upon arriving at a new doctor's surgery, one does not fill out a form but takes a swab and his doctor receives an instant picture of genetic problems as a result (

My opponents final point, about being "color blind" fails to recognise that race, as a social construct, can be replaced by more effective ones. Like descent. I would find it much easier to emphasise with someone who describes themselves as "Sino-North European" than "Half white, half asian". It tells me a lot more. It tells a doctor a lot more. It tells a police man a lot more.

I would much rather like to hear your geographical ancestry than your "race". There are genes common amongst specific geographical groups, but there are no genes common amongst a race.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by ZachZimmey 1 year ago
There is one race, that being the human race. I, being a Conservative, do not base my opinions on the color of one's skin, but by the content of their character. Anyone trying to say there are more than one race is racist for trying to split people up based on genetic differences. We are all the same species and that is all that matters.
Posted by FuzzyCatPotato 1 year ago
Race is a very effective social construct. When you want to get a 70-year-old billionaire elected as a "man of the people", look no further than our world's skin-deep hatreds.
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