Insight: Five racist myths debunked

BBC Radio 4 – Radio 4 in Four – Five racist myths debunked

The primary pigment in human skin is called melanin, and it’s used to protect us from the sun. It absorbs the sun’s ultra violet rays before they can destroy folate, one of the body’s key vitamins.

Here are five racist myths well and truly debunked.

Dr Adam Rutherford offers a scientific toolkit to separate fact from myth in understanding how we are different and how we are the same.

1. The DNA of white and black people is completely different
Firstly, all humans share almost all of their DNA – a fact that betrays all of our recent origins from Africa.

Secondly, there is more genetic diversity on the continent of Africa than in the rest of the world put together.

2. There is such a thing as “racial purity”
“Racial purity is pure fantasy,” says the geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford. “For humans, there are no pure bloods.

3. England is for the English
Those on the far right have long expressed anger in the form of epithets like “England for the English” or “go back to where you came from.”

In truth, Britain has been steadily invaded throughout its history and has become home to migrants since it became an island around 7,500 years ago!

Before the French took over in 1066, we were invaded by Vikings, and before them there was continuous movement of people from the continent: Angles, Saxons, Huns, and dozens of other smaller tribes and clans.

Before that the Romans ruled, and many of their conscripts were from all over that intercontinental empire and beyond – including sub-Saharan Africans.

4. A genealogy test can prove someone is 100% white
You carry DNA from only half of your ancestors from eleven generations back.

You carry DNA from only half of your ancestors from eleven generations back. You are descended from multitudes, from all around the world, from people you think you know and from more you know nothing about.

It is possible that you are genetically unrelated to people from whom you are actually descended as recently as the 18th century.

“You are descended from multitudes, from all around the world, from people you think you know and from more you know nothing about,” says Adam.

“You will have no meaningful genetic link to many of them.”

5. Black people are better at running than white people
We do know that people who are good at explosive sports tend to have a higher proportion of “fast-twitch” muscle cells, that process energy more quickly. The genetics that underly this involve a gene called ACTN3.

Studies have shown that elite athletes in power and strength sports are more likely to have copies of the R type of ACTN3 and that it also occurs in a higher frequency of African Americans compared to white Americans – 96% compared to 80%.

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