Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy on 2022-05-15 19:00Z by Steven

Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Columbia University Press
December 2021
320 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780231200660
Paperback ISBN: 9780231200677
E-book ISBN: 9780231553735

Joseph L. Graves Jr., is a professor in the Department of Biology at
North Carolina A&T State University

Alan H. Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology
Hampshire College

The science on race is clear. Common categories like “Black,” “white,” and “Asian” do not represent genetic differences among groups. But if race is a pernicious fiction according to natural science, it is all too significant in the day-to-day lives of racialized people across the globe. Inequities in health, wealth, and an array of other life outcomes cannot be explained without referring to “race”—but their true source is racism. What do we need to know about the pseudoscience of race in order to fight racism and fulfill human potential?

In this book, two distinguished scientists tackle common misconceptions about race, human biology, and racism. Using an accessible question-and-answer format, Joseph L. Graves Jr. and Alan H. Goodman explain the differences between social and biological notions of race. Although there are many meaningful human genetic variations, they do not map onto socially constructed racial categories. Drawing on evidence from both natural and social science, Graves and Goodman dismantle the malignant myth of gene-based racial difference. They demonstrate that the ideology of racism created races and show why the inequalities ascribed to race are in fact caused by racism.

Graves and Goodman provide persuasive and timely answers to key questions about race and racism for a moment when people of all backgrounds are striving for social justice. Racism, Not Race shows readers why antiracist principles are both just and backed by sound science.


  • List of Questions
  • Preface
  • Introduction: What Are Race, Racism, and Human Variation?
  • 1. How Did Race Become Biological?
  • 2. Everything You Wanted to Know About Genetics and Race
  • 3. Everything You Wanted to Know About Racism
  • 4. Why Do Races Differ in Disease Incidence?
  • 5. Life History, Aging, and Mortality
  • 6. Athletics, Bodies, and Abilities
  • 7. Intelligence, Brains, and Behaviors
  • 8. Driving While Black and Other Deadly Realities of Institutional and Systemic Racism
  • 9. DNA and Ancestry Testing
  • 10. Race Names and “Race Mixing”
  • 11. A World Without Racism?
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • Index
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Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health)

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-05-07 20:14Z by Steven

Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health)

American Journal of Public Health
Volume 90, Number 11 (November 2000)
pages 1699-1702
DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.90.11.1699

Alan H. Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology
Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts

There is a paradoxical relationship between “race” and genetics. Whereas genetic data were first used to prove the validity of race, since the early 1970s they have been used to illustrate the invalidity of biological races. Indeed, race does not account for human genetic variation, which is continuous, complexly structured, constantly changing, and predominantly within “races.” Despite the disproof of race-as-biology, genetic variation continues to be used to explain racial differences. Such explanations require the acceptance of 2 disproved assumptions: that genetic variation explains variation in disease and that genetic variation explains racial variation in disease. While the former is a form of geneticization, the notion that genes are the primary determinants of biology and behavior, the latter represents a form of racialization, an exaggeration of the salience of race. Using race as a proxy for genetic differences limits understandings of the complex interactions among political-economic processes, lived experiences, and human biologies. By moving beyond studies of racialized genetics, we can clarify the processes by which varied and interwoven forms of racialization and racism affect individuals “under the skin.”

…Professor Armelagos hinted at a powerful lesson: that scientific ideas can endure and be made to seem real if they have social and political–economic utility. An evolutionary framework that explained human variation had been established for more than a century, ever since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. In the 1940s, Montagu used the “new evolutionary synthesis” to explain clearly why race was a biological myth. Yet the idea of race as biology persists today in science and society.

I was aware of the power of race as a worldview in 1973. But what I understood less was the idea’s ability to persist after it had been proven unscientific. If I had been asked in the 1970s whether race would survive as a way to think about human biological variation in 2000, I would have answered emphatically, “No!” I was naive to the durability of an economically useful idea.

Acceptance of the notion of race-as-biology declined in anthropology throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yet, during the past decade, racialized notions of biology have made a comeback. This is especially true in human genetics, a field that, paradoxically, once drove the last nail into the coffin of race-as biology. In this commentary, I explain why race should not be used as a proxy for genetic or biological variation. I then explain and illustrate the unfounded assumptions that are needed for an acceptance that racial differences in disease are due to genetic differences among races…

…The Double Error Inherent in Genetic Explanations of Racial Differences

Two errors—2 leaps of illogic—are necessary for acceptance of the idea that racial differences in disease are due to genetic differences among races. The first leap is a form of geneticization, the belief that most biology and behavior are located “in the genes.”

Genes, of course, are often a part of the complex web of disease causality, but they are almost always a minor, unstable, and insufficient cause. The presence of Gm allotype, for example, might correlate to increased rates of diabetes in Native Americans, but the causal link is unknown. In other cases, the gene is not expressed without some environmental context, and it may interact with environments and other genes in nonadditive and unpredictable ways.

The second necessary leap of illogic is a form of scientific racialism, the belief that races are real and useful constructs. Importantly, this leap propels one from explaining disease variation as caused by genetic variation to explaining that racial differences in disease are caused by genetic variation among races.To accept this logic, one needs to also accept that genetic variation occurs along racial divides: that is, most variation occurs among races. However, we know from Lewontin’s work that this assumption is false for simple genetic systems. For a disease of complex etiology, genetics is an illogical explanation for racial differences.

Read the entire article here.

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