It’s a problem we have been grappling with since the 20th century. Genetics, although a necessary study, has a history of uncertainty and racism. Eugenics, which is a study that seeks to improve society by eliminating what certain people may consider bad traits, is the most outright argument against studying genetics. The American Society of Human Genetics holds its annual meeting this week, Oct. 16-20, and, even though this is becoming a pressing issue, there is no talk scheduled to discuss the misuse of genetic studies to further white supremacist ideology. This is ignoring a massive concern in the United States instead of further seeking a solution.
The Nazi party in Germany was a strong proponent of eugenics during the 20th century. They believed they could create a more perfect society through the genocide of entire groups of people. This belief has been on the rise again the past two years due to the growing Neo-Nazi movement all over the world.
The rise of this movement was further brought to light because of the Charlottesville, Va. rally in August 2017. The violent rally was one of the most recent cases of white supremacists publicly showing their hate for minority groups. With Neo-Nazis becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, to the point that the U.S. president has made racist remarks, including refusing to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, it feels as though the United States isn’t progressing in terms of racism, but instead remaining stagnate, and that is harming minority groups in our country.
In the past few years, white supremacists have been using genetics as a way to reintroduce the belief of eugenics in the U.S. Geneticists have begun finding their studies on white nationalist forums, twisted in ways that degrade and dehumanize minorities. These scientists are growing increasingly afraid to post studies, fearing the information will be used in a potentially racist way. This raises the question of whether or not geneticists should even release certain studies to the public, so this racist form of thinking doesn’t become widespread.
There has already been hard evidence that proves white supremacists are misusing geneticists’ studies. In 2017, there was a white nationalist gathering where participants chugged milk. It sounds undeniably ridiculous, but the racist message of the gathering was very clear. They were chugging milk to bring awareness to a study that had shown the genetic trait to be able to digest lactose was more common in white people. They used the study to further their racist position. On the scientific journal post about the study, white supremacists wrote, “If you can’t drink milk, you have to go back.” The hate speech was obvious and regressive in terms of equality.
Geneticists shouldn’t have to be afraid of releasing scientific studies they have made, but, unfortunately, in today’s society, it’s unavoidable. People are going to use the information, twist it in their own way, and then use it against certain populations. If the consequence of preventing the Neo-Nazi movement from spreading is allowing the public to stay in the dark about certain genetics studies, I feel like it’s worth it. Racial bias is a epidemic that has gone far too long in this country, and people need to do anything in their power to stop it.
This solution does feel like it will lead scientists to hiding new studies from the public, which can be concerning. However, the alternative could further fuel the Neo-Nazi movement and their ideology could become more popular as a result. The American Society of Genetics needs to address these issues before the U.S. starts regressing.