How beliefs in biological differences can undergird racial and policy attitudes

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-08-25 01:10Z by Steven

How beliefs in biological differences can undergird racial and policy attitudes

The London School of Economics and Political Science

W. Carson Byrd, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Beliefs in biological differences between racial groups linger in both scientific and public discourse. Recent advances in genetics and genomics influence public understandings of racial inequality. In a recent study examining whites’ views of race, genetics, and public policies in the U.S., Carson Byrd finds that beliefs in biological differences between racial groups can influence people’s support for policies aimed at reducing racial inequalities, and uncovers the complexities of how people conceptualize and utilize race to understand everyday life.

It has been 15 years since then President Bill Clinton and leading scientists of the Human Genome Project made their highly-acclaimed proclamations that race at the genetic level does not exist. At the time this supported the long-held narrative of scholars that the once prominent beliefs in biological determinism (race as a genetic reality) and racial essentialism (human behavior is anchored in group-based biological differences) had been all but completely laid to rest in the archives of history, particularly after the fall of the Nazi regime and the end of the Holocaust after World War II. However, these beliefs in race and genetics may be making a comeback as genetic and genomic research gains in popularity and media visibility. As sociologist Lawrence Bobo and colleagues recently note in their analysis of survey data, there is a recent uptick the last decade in the belief that there are innate (i.e., biological or genetic) racial differences that drive racial inequality…

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