Saturday, May 31, 2014

Racism and alcoholism

The stereotype drunk indian made foolish by firewater still predominates the media and the view that the native peoples have a genetic intolerance to alcohol persists in Canada (and SOYMB will add in Australia, too) but a Manitoba medical expert says studies show a possible predisposition to alcoholism really boils down to social conditions such as poverty. There is no scientific evidence that supports a genetic predisposition for alcohol intolerance in the aboriginal population, said Kettner, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba's faculty of medicine and the province’s former chief public health officer.

Some of the mor “scientific" suggest that aboriginal people are missing an enzyme which makes them genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction.

"There will always be theories and research that will try and explain some of this in the way of genetics, as was the case in Germany in the '30s and the case in the U.S. comparing Negro brains and white brains," Kettner said. Kettner points out that there have been studies examining differences in alcohol tolerance for different ethnic groups, taking into account cultural, geographic and racial factors. But when it comes to possible predisposition for alcoholism, "what those really boil down to, in almost all scientific analysis, is the social circumstances and social conditions — whether experiences with family, community or at a larger level, in society," he said.

He added "There are many indigenous populations around the world that have been colonized and oppressed by settlers where we have seen the same patterns of poverty, of poor housing, disenfranchisement. There is increasing evidence that these are the factors that lead to poor individual health, poor social health, poor community health, and these are what we need to focus our attention on.

Kettner continued  there are also studies that show high rates of alcohol-related diseases and injuries in some communities, both urban and rural, where there is a large aboriginal population. But he noted that "those trends are there with other populations, including Caucasian populations, in similar circumstances of disadvantage, or poverty or inter-generational experience."

For Kettner, the persistence of the genetic stereotype is evidence that there is still much work to do in combating racism. From a public health perspective, he said, it is an indication that there are educational, social and political issues that need to be addressed.

“Maybe we should turn the question around,” Kettner concluded. “I know it might sound facetious, but maybe we should be doing genetic analysis on people who continue to perpetuate stereotypical and racist myths.”

Taken from here

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