Conventional wisdom holds that race is socially constructed and not based on genetic differences. Cutting-edge genetic research threatens this view and hence also endangers the pursuit of racial equality and useful public health research. The most recent incarnation of racial genetics is not due to scientific discoveries about population differences per se, but follows from how the United States and other governments have organized racial categories. This article explains tensions in U.S. government guidelines and publications on the study of human genetic diversity, points out the absence of any compelling public health benefits that might justify this research, introduces conceptual tools for addressing the complicated heuristic and policy problems posed by medical population genetics, and offers two policy proposals to remedy the current problems.

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