Racial Justice Setting the Table for Genetic Technologies

By Guest Columnist Aug 07, 2008

By Truc Thanh Nguyen If you had asked me a year ago, what I thought about genetic technologies in relation to social justice – I would have responded, “Genetic what….? That is a conversation for class privileged folks–we’re busy still fighting for equity in housing, education, health access and justice!” There is truth to all of that, but the genetic technology is developing faster then the readiness to bring the conversation into focus to understand the social implications, both positive and negative, for already marginalized communities. Let me take you back to the 80s. Computer access was limited and I remember waiting at the computer lab to write up reports to print out on the dot matrix printer, because my family didn’t have the kind of money to buy one; most people didn’t. Who would argue that computers were a bad idea? Computers (and then the internet) have impacted how we as humans communicate and socially relate to each other. Access to this technology also came with a growing host of issues related to privacy, security, and safety (i.e. identity theft, child exploitation and human trafficking, etc). The question is, as a society, are we willing to make the intellectual space in thinking through the social implications for the development of these technologies- or do we just want to just wait and see? We are on a similar path with genetic technologies and now is the time to strike, while the iron is hot. The relevancy of genetic technologies cuts across social justice movements (i.e. reproductive, disability, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, etc) with a velocity that we can choose to move toward a deeper analysis and collaborative platform that takes all of us into consideration as we continue to strive for equity. As Racial Justice advocates and activists we have the opportunity to engage in setting the table around what we envision for our future generations in the context of equity and humanity. There is a small but growing community of researchers, academics, scientist and activist helping us gain a footing in this growing conversation, but a movement demands that we all get on board. The racial justice movement, like others, has the opportunity to not be reactive to social/political issues, but to be pre-emptive in putting forth strategies that allow us to take more informed positions to advocate for socially just policy. As a queer person of color, social justice advocate, I know it’s a table that I am ready to set and sit at. Are you? Truc Thanh Nguyen is the Project Director of Racial Justice & Human Rights at Generations Ahead