Race Only Exists Socially, Not Biologically, Author Claims

Race Only Exists Socially, Not Biologically, Author Claims

Is there a biological distinction between races? “No,” argues legal scholar and social critic, Dorothy Roberts, “yet it absolutely exists economically, politically, and socially.”

In her new book, “FATAL INVENTION: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century” (The New Press), Roberts argues that race simply does not exist on a genetic level. This is a view widely supported by scientists, even while a false belief in biological race drives supposedly cutting-edge science and perpetuates racial inequality. While race does not exist biologically, Roberts argues, it absolutely exists economically, politically, and socially.

Many institutions both corporate and political have come to depend on a biological distinction between the races: the pharmaceutical industry promotes race-targeted therapies, and a proliferation of for-profit ancestry-testing services encourage us to believe that spitting into a test tube will tell us not only who we are but “what” – that is, what race – we truly are. As identity and genetics become more deeply intertwined, and as our social and political structures evolve to accommodate this new notion of the “biocitizen,” such intersections of race and genetics are only increasing, along with their potential for bias, exclusion, and even punishment.

FATAL INVENTION is the first book to document the development of racial science and biotechnology based on genetics and to map its implications for equality in America.

Dorothy Roberts is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Northwestern University School of Law and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. She is the author of the award-winning Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty; Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare and more than seventy articles and essays in books and scholarly journal and is the co-editor of six books on gender and constitutional law. She serves as chair of the board of directors of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. Roberts lives in Evanston, Illinois.

“While embracing a racial ideology rooted in genetics, Americans are accepting a genetic ideology rooted in race that makes everyone responsible for managing their own lives at the genetic level instead of eliminating the social inequalities that damage our entire society.”
– Dorothy Roberts, from Fatal Invention


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