THE RACE MYTH by Joseph L. Graves


Why We Pretend Race Exists in America
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Squelching bad science, evolutionary biologist Graves (The Emperor’s New Clothes, not reviewed) explains how race is a social construct without basis in biological understanding.

It’s a convenient and powerful tool for military, political, and social domination, he writes, but race has no basis for existence in humans on the DNA level. In terms of the messages spaced along the chromosomes that determine our variety as a species, race meets none of the applied criteria. Here, Graves seeks to demonstrate the difference between biologically and socially defined concepts of race. Biologically nil, the allegiance to race is ideological, he argues; differences of cultural evolution have trumped those of biological evolution. He is interested in the role of coalition alliances: who are friends and who are foes, how do hierarchies influence reproduction and control of surplus production, how do short- and long-term reproductive and sexual strategies apply, how does social status, as a genetically fixed trait, play out in terms of sex, equality, enfranchisement, law, and economic opportunities? When it comes to sports, a frequent litmus for the race-conscious, Graves shows that various populations simply don't hold as distinguishing categories, nor do physical features, nor, in the broader context, does intelligence. In terms of the larger notion of racism, class is more likely to be the pivotal feature. If you’re looking for genetically fixed traits, for the time being you should hold still; what we know from studies so far is that social status is more important. Graves is willing to take a seat when it comes to ethnic and racial health disparities; there are so many elements at play, it would be nonsensical to make predictions beyond those suggested by geographical and economic factors.

Neatly removes the genetic explanation for racism from the equation, taking science out of the racist's arsenal.

Pub Date: June 21st, 2004
ISBN: 0-525-94825-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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