The term race it is normally used when talking about animals. It is common experience, for example, to ask a dog owner to ask "what breed is it?" or, in the equestrian field, ask the same question about a horse.

The word race seems to derive from the old French word haraz, which means "horse breeding, stallion depot", hence the Italian saying "purebred horse”.

However, for a long time humans were also divided into different "races", taking into account physical differences such as eye, skin and hair color.

With the discovery of the genetic code that contains all the information necessary for the functioning and development of human beings, DNA, it was thought that these differences visible to the naked eye were due to the presence of genes (i.e. those pieces of DNA that are responsible for hereditary characteristics, that is to say transmitted from parents to children), different in the different "races".

To understand whether this was true or not, at the beginning of the 1970s, several researchers, including the American geneticist Richard Lewontin, decided to study the DNA of 7 "races": Caucasians (the inhabitants overlooking the Mediterranean, including also the citizens of Northern Europe); the Sub-Saharan Africans (all of Africa with the exception of the inhabitants of North Africa); the Mongolians (East Asia); the populations of Southeast Asia; the Australian aborigines; the populations of Oceania (oceanic); the natives of the Americas (Amerindians).

The results of these studies showed that looking inside the DNA the differences between the "races" are very small, and indeed all seem to derive from the same group of common ancestors.

One of the most probable hypotheses is that these ancestors left Africa about 100,000 years ago and moved across continents, giving rise to a lineage of men with different physical characteristics.

Lewontin's research was repeated several times by other scholars, especially when, years later, it was possible to have the right tools to study DNA in even more detail.

It was an Italian geneticist, Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, who with his collaborators confirmed the previous results: within their DNA, people belonging to different "races" are very similar to each other, and this is due to the frequent migrations that in the over the millennia they have determined continuous "shuffling" of genes.

The differences in the color of the skin, eyes and hair, although they are the first characteristics that the human eye notices and uses to categorize individuals, are therefore not very important compared to DNA, which is the real responsible for the structure and development of human beings.

Referring to the human species, it is now preferred not to speak more of Stingray But say populations you hate ethnicities, meaning with the term populations groups of individuals who occupy a specific geographical area and with the more slang term ethnicities groups of people with common language, traditions, culture, religion, lifestyles and with ancestors who, at least originally, lived in the same territory.

From the point of view of health, individual populations and ethnic groups may have different predispositions to suffer from particular pathological conditions. For example, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, and beta-blockers are less effective and carry more risk in African-American hypertensive patients.

The notions of "superior races" and "inferior races" within the human species, born in the nineteenth century with the publication of Essay on the inequality of human races (1853-55) by Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82), in addition to having proved incorrect from the point of view of the evolution of the human species, they created the basis and justification for historical tragedies.

German Nazism and the extermination of Jews as a consequence of the battle for the maintenance of purity and the affirmation of the Aryan race, the massacre of Armenians, racism and discrimination against black men in different parts of the world, are examples. .

Although science today has amply demonstrated the absence of differences between human beings, racial prejudices remain difficult to eradicate and constitute an aspect about which politics, health, society and science should question themselves.

The scientific community must be attributed a part of the responsibility, now widely documented, at least as regards some past generations, in not having been able to respect the objectivity of science and spread the lack of evidence in support of the differences between men in a more incisive way. .



Barbujani G. The invention of races. Understanding human biodiversity. Bompiani, 2018

Destro Bisol G, Head of House M. An impossible interview with DNA, stories of science and humanity. Il Mulino, 2018

Destro Bisol G, Head of House M. Italians. How DNA Helps Us Understand Who We Are. Carocci, 2016

Lewontin RC. Biology as an ideology: the doctrine of DNA. Translation by Barbara Continenza. Bollati Boringhieri: Turin, 1993

Lewontin RC. Human diversity. Translation by Lucia Maldacea. Zanichelli: Bologna, 1987

Rose S, Lewontin R, Kamin L. The gene and its mind: biology, ideology and human nature. Italian edition edited by Giorgio Bignami and Luciano Terrenato. Mondadori: Milan, 1983

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