For millennia, dominant societies have had the habit of believing their own people to be the best, deep down: the more powerful they become, the more power begins to be framed as natural, as well as cultural. When you see how power has shaped the idea of race, then you can start to understand its meaning.
In the twenty-first century, we like to believe that we have moved beyond scientific racism, that most people accept race as a social construct, not a biological one. But race science is experiencing a revival, fuelled by the misuse of science by certain political groups.
The thing I don’t get about racists is – even if they were right, so what? If people from group X are Y% worse at something than people from group Z – does it matter?
Let’s take intelligence. Even if you could reliably tell what race someone is (you can’t) and you knew that race’s average intelligence (again, you can’t) all that tells you it that the individual is somewhere on a bell-curve.
But we aren’t randomly selecting people out of a pool in order to turn them into astronauts and presidents. We’re in an era of hyper-personalisation. We have the resources to treat people as individuals when it comes to learning, medical needs, and employment.
The race science argument is flawed and, even if it were accurate, it would be little more than a curio.
This is, obviously, a timely book. It neatly skewers some of the pernicious myths about race “science” and gives a good overview of how we came to this point.
It’s also an excellent introduction for why many of our ideas about race are just social constructs.
The book is well paced and sets out its argument clearly and logically. A highly recommended read.