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Two upright pill bottles, one pill lying down, and several loose pills, all on top of a black table

They tell us race is an invention.

That there is more genetic variation between two black people than there is between a black person and a white person. Then they tell us black people have a worse kind of breast cancer and get more fibroids. And white folk get cystic fibrosis and osteoporosis. 

So what's the deal, doctors in the house?  

Is race an invention or not?

—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

In 1988, the Joint National Commission (JNC), the leading U.S. authority on management of high blood pressure, added an extra branch to its existing treatment algorithm. The line of its flow chart jutted diagonally to create a small divergence, and from then on, the hypertension world became divided into two populations: “black” and “non-black.” The upside-down–Y split its legs to end at different recommendations for medication. American physicians were asked to consult their eyes and judge a patient’s race to referee the fitting pharmaceutical. 

Across the ocean, this same treatment guideline was adopted in the United Kingdom—with one exception. Where the U.S. algorithm gives no instruction for how... see more