“Why DNA Isn’t Your Destiny” is about short-term heritable changes in biology that can happen due to the way a person lives that are then passed down at least one generation. So, your bad choices that lead to bad traits in yourself can result in those same bad traits being expressed in your children without them needing to make the same bad decisions. What happens is that the genes remain the same, but the markers that decide whether a gene is expressed or not change due to those decisions. This is called epigenetics, and scientists and researchers are beginning to create medical advances based upon it. That is, creating medication that can help encourage good biological traits as opposed to bad ones.
“Low-income blacks stranded in food deserts” is about housing. In particular, neighborhoods and housing districts. In lower income areas, there is little to no access to low-priced healthy food, in particular fresh meat, vegetables, and fruits. Some of this is because there’s no room; the current trend for food markets is that they have become large super-stores that require a big lot for the actual building and another big lot for parking. However, low-income housing is often cram-packed together, leaving no room for these kinds of stores. What does fit into these areas, however, are fast food restaurants and small mom and pop stores. This also includes such things as corner bodegas, which typically have a tiny selection of fresh food and mostly contain pre-packaged, highly processed foods as well as a selection of hot junk food such as pizza – I have a friend who lived in one of the lower income areas in New Jersey, and if he wanted healthy food he had to travel a long way into the city. He was on food stamps despite having a full time job with benefits, and it was a weekly struggle for him to find healthy, cheap food. The bottom line is, you have to travel to find healthy food, and even if you do have the time (and money) to travel, you might not have the money to buy good, nourishing food.
In an earlier module, I made a statement that race wasn’t real. At the time, I had thought that I was saying that race is a cultural construct, but thinking about the context in which I had said it as well as my word choice, I have realized that in many ways there’s still a lot of subconscious assumptions that I have made about race. One of those had been that race only mattered in terms of direct racism – that is, refusing service to someone or harming someone because of their skin color. However, this line of thought is, in my opinion, what leads to our current week’s learning about race and health: for the average person, we assume that the blame must be placed on the individual. It is incredibly hard to imagine the entire sticky web of action and consequence that has resulted in all of the issues that we have discussed. But most of all, it’s hard to imagine that one such consequence is health.
Before I took this class, if someone had asked me if a person’s race could affect their health, I would have immediately thought it was a question on biology. It never would have occurred to me that the conditions surrounding people who are raced can have direct health consequences.
So now, when I look at the question “are we creating two classes: one with good health that is nonraced and one with poor health that is raced?” I immediately say: yes. The reasons for this can be seen for looking back over the past weeks of modules; it is a combination of all of the issues for race that results in these diseases. This was echoed in the book reading that dismantled the idea that it is based upon biology. Instead, because of the systematic pressure placed upon black people (and to a lesser extent other non-whites such as Hispanics), the economic disadvantages, the lack of opportunities, and the inherent difficulty of living a healthful life, we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have created circumstances that encourage a whole group of people to do badly, and then see them do badly and then the society sees it happening and makes uneducated assumptions about why.
Therefore, no, these classes are not fixed. However, due to the article on epigenetics (and on the cycle), I would say that they are heritable. Not in the sense of genes, but in the sense that you inherit some of the same issues that plagued your parents; without outside help, most people aren’t able to escape. It’s a huge issue that has been created by society, and thus for the entire group (because it is possible for individuals – by luck, ability, sheer force of will, or some unusual circumstance – to break their own cycle and maybe for some people around them) society is needed to end the issue.
As for what we can do, well, the same line I’ve been giving for the last several modules. Education. Starting young. Providing resources (money, goods, and skilled people to manage it) to create better infrastructure and opportunities. We have to overhaul the system, and in order to do that we need to focus on our children.