“We need black blood.”
I didn’t know what to say to this, not least because it had been said by the head of donor services at England’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant. The interview was for a book I was writing on blood, a topic I knew a little about by then, but the baldness of his statement still shocked me. Surely we’re all the same under the skin?
I knew the history of race and blood was an ugly one. America’s earliest blood bank, founded in 1937 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, noted race on donor forms and other blood banks followed suit. During World War II, African-American blood was labeled N for Negro (and some centers refused African-American donors outright) and given only to African-American soldiers. Writing to Eleanor Roosevelt, the chairman of the American Red Cross, Norman H. Davis, admitted that segregating blood was “a matter of tradition and sentiment rather than of science,” but didn’t stop doing it until 1950. Louisiana banned the segregation of blood only in 1972.
But the Red Cross was wrong: While no one is suggesting forced segregation of blood bags, it’s now scientifically established that blood can be racially or ethnically specific.
Most people know about the eight major blood groups: A, B, AB and O, each of which can be positive or negative (the Rh factor). These are determined by genes, and what group you are depends on what combination of proteins and sugars — antigens — are on the outside of your red blood cells. …
Of course disquiet was inevitable, given sensitivity about whether race is skin-deep and whether differences should be highlighted at all, if equality is ever to be reached. But the startling truth about blood is that acknowledging, seeking and celebrating its differences can tip the balance between life and death for people who need it. … “
I thought we all bleed red. I thought there was only one race the human race. I was told we are all created equal. I was told that race is actually a social construct. I thought evolution in the human species mysteriously ground to a halt around 150,000 years ago for some inexplicable reason thereby making every human population equal even though our species is now uniquely distributed across nearly every habitat on earth and is subject to radically different selection pressures.
I’ve been told that I am a “racist” and a “white supremacist” and an “immoral” person for my failure to believe in this transparent nonsense that is the mainstream orthodoxy on race. And yet, I read in The New York Times that no one really truly believes in the orthodoxy either. We just punish people for having integrity and being intellectually honest about the existence of race.