PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF RACE

PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF RACE

PHILOSOPHICAL AND SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF RACE 

Naomi Zack  Naomi Zack is a professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon. Her books include Race and Mixed  Race (1993), Bachelors of Science: Seventeenth Century Identity, Then and Now (1996), Philosophy of Science and Race (2002), Inclusive Feminism: A Third Wave Theory of Women’s Commonality (2005), Ethics  for Disaster (2009), and The Ethics and Mores of Race: Equality after the History of Philosophy (2011). 

Building upon the clear scientific evidence that there is no biological basis for race, Zack argues that in  order to dismantle racism and its foundation, we will need to progress through two phases. The first phase  requires those in all significant societal positions, from education to policy-making, to be scientifically  literate regarding the absence of biological races. The second phase requires a thorough paradigm shift in  all cultural, economic, and political practices and institutions. Evident throughout Zack’s essay is the paradox that while races are not real, racism is and must continue to be treated as a separate issue from race,  “even though the facts about race represent its [racism’s] ultimate demise, now in theory, later in practice.”  “Philosophy of Science and Race” by Naomi Zack. Copyright 2002  by Taylor & Francis Group LLC––Books. Reproduced with permission of  Taylor & Francis Group LLC––Books in the format Textbook via Copyright Clearance Center.

Scientific Literacy About Race

 The public, which is broadly committed to the results  of the physical sciences as a source of information  about reality, now maintains anachronistic beliefs  about race. The present challenge to members of both  oppressive and liberatory traditions regarding what  they continue to assume about racial taxonomies is,  to begin with, an intellectual challenge. In “The Conservation of Races,” after Du Bois claimed that the  notion of race overflowed the scientific definition of  it in 1897, he asserted that the history of the world is  the history of races and that “he who ignores or seeks  to override the race idea in human history ignores and  overrides the central thought of all history.” 1 Race lacks  the basis in biology assumed by late-nineteenth-century scientists, and as Anthony Appiah showed, by Du  Bois himself in his definition of races as families with  common histories. Therefore, it cannot be the case that  the history of the world is the history of races. Neither  is the history of the world the history of the idea of  race, because world history extends further back in  time than the modern period, when the idea of biological race was first constructed, and the history of the  world that lies ahead will have to take the fact that race  is biologically unreal into account—somehow. So, we  can now say simply that Du Bois is mistaken here. It is  time to put to rest his fantasy that African Americans  could acquit themselves within a false taxonomy, much  less that they should.

All of the discussion about science is accessible  to educated communities. Most of it is no more  difficult to understand than information routinely  absorbed in senior high school and introductory  college courses. The contemporary information  from population genetics, the study of phenotypes, transmission genetics, genealogy, and their  relevance to anthropology does not require special  talents for absorption by liberal arts educators and  their students. What is required is a willingness to  acquire scientific literacy relevant to a subject that  is one of the major preoccupations of present life  in the United States (at least). I would submit that  this racially relevant scientific literacy is an obligation for all scholars of race, particularly those  who teach and especially those who teach future  teachers. 

The burning questions evoked by this scientific literacy are social and political. I want to finish with suggestions about how those questions can be answered,  but, beforehand, some additional philosophical issues  need to be addressed: the connection between “race”  and “IQ” and race as a social construction.

The Gordian Knot of Race and IQ 

  As Stephen Jay Gould lucidly notes, assumptions  of nonwhite and particularly black intellectual  inferiority in comparison to whites have always  accompanied modern racial taxonomies. The  recurrent debate about the connection between  race and IQ is thus no more than a contemporary  version of nineteenth-century debates about different racial cranial capacities and intelligence. 2  Ashley Montagu points out that no one can  say exactly what intelligence is, and Gould has  explained how the notion of a general IQ factor,  referred to as g or “general intelligence,” is highly  dependent on the statistical methods used in  designing and scoring IQ tests. 3 Nonetheless, the  numerical nature of IQ test scores casts an illusory  mantle of scientific authority over popularized  presentations of statistical correlations between  IQ scores and membership in social racial groups.  In the 1970s, Arthur Jensen presented arguments against integration and funding programs  intended to improve the opportunities of African  American schoolchildren, on the grounds that IQ  cannot be changed because it is biologically determined in ways that correspond to race. 4 During  the 1990s, Robert Herrnstein and Charles Murray  presented essentially the same arguments, with  more statistics. 5 Montagu notes that both Jensen’s and Herrnstein’s and Murray’s publications  appeared at times of federal fiscal retrenchment  and should therefore be interpreted as politically  motivated. 6 But, though this may be true, it does  not address the content of the claims.

IQ, as measured by available tests, is broadly  considered to be 60 to 80 percent heritable within the white population in the United States. This  heritability of IQ is “the proportion of a population’s IQ variability attributable to genes.” 7 However,  biologists do not equate heritability with biological  determinism that is invariant over changing environmental and developmental factors. Height is  highly heritable from parents to children within  groups if environmental factors are constant, but if  dairy products are freely added to diets previously  lacking them, the height of a whole generation may  increase. Ned Block, among others who have written  forcefully about the limits to the genetic component  of heritability, painstakingly explicates the ways in  which the heritability of a trait does not mean that  its expression is independent of environmental conditions. 8 Many evidentiary claims have been made  against the conclusions drawn by Jensen and Herrnstein and Murray, including references to studies in which IQ scores have risen as environmental  conditions have changed. 9 Furthermore, the 60 to  80 percent heritability figure does not take maternal  effects in the womb into account. When those effects  are allowed for in statistical studies of identical twins  reared apart, the genetic effect on IQ appears to be  only 48 percent when the total effect of genes on IQ  is calculated. But the genetic effect is only about 34  percent when the additive effect of genes on IQ is  calculated and that figure is more relevant in evolutionary arguments.

If conservatives have been strongly motivated  to link IQ and race, the liberatory motivation to  disprove alleged connections between race and IQ  has been passionate. The 1998 American Anthropological Association Statement on “Race” was  partly prompted by a desire to correct the public  misinformation cast by Herrnstein and Murray’s  The Bell Curve. 11 The 1998 AAA Statement on  “Race” began with a claim that biological human  races did not exist. However, if races do not exist,  then regardless of whether or not there is some g  or “general intelligence” factor and regardless of  whether, or to what degree, that factor has a genetic  component or is heritable, it is logically impossible  that there could be a connection between the genetics  of IQ and the genetics of race. While discussion of  the heritability, malleability, and distribution of  “intelligence quotients” and of the cultural objectivity of IQ tests is of considerable interest in its  own right, such discussion is irrelevant to race in  any biological sense.

Race and Social Construction 

Publications such as The Bell Curve distress many  people because they know that there are millions  of young African Americans who do not do as well  as their white contemporaries on IQ tests. The reasons for that are social, not biological, but in the  absence of a biological foundation for racial difference, there seems to be no difficulty in identifying  the different groups by race. For this case and other  statistically compelling ones, such as race-related  differences in public health and imprisonment, it  is necessary to give an account of how people are  able to sort others into races, and of the coherent  persistence of racial identities. Since races are not  natural kinds, they must be social constructions,  and indeed, mention of the biological emptiness of  race is often now followed by the proclamation that  race is nothing but a social construction. But that  alone is mild news ontologically, because almost all  of the important ingredients of contemporary life  are social constructions: money, marriage, social  class, education, work, gender, beauty, and perhaps  even health itself (physical as well as mental). Anything that is the result of human interaction and  intention in contexts where past actions, decisions,  and agreements have present consequences is, trivially, a social construction. It is therefore necessary  to dig a little into the meaning of “social construction” before it can be informative to park race in  that category. Ian Hacking observes that the label  “social construction” is currently applied to matters of concern to signal that they are not inevitable when it is otherwise assumed that they are  inevitable. Imputation of contingency is an important starting point for change, because, usually, the  thing asserted to be socially constructed is also believed to be harmful and/or unjust. 12 Hacking  also points out that objects, interactions, people in  specified social roles or with specific ascribed identities, processes, and results of processes have all  been viewed as social constructions in this way. 13  Applying Hacking’s insight to race, we could say  that each of the following is a social construction:  the common sense notion of race, race relations,  black, white, Asian, Native American, mixed, and  any other racial identity, the histories of the foregoing, and the present results of those histories.  So far, we know the point of saying that race is a  social construction, and we know what particular  aspects of “race” are social constructions, but we  do not know what constitutes something like race  as a social construction, that is, how saying that  race is a social construction, can give an account of  the way race works in society. We need an answer  to this question: If race is not biologically real as  people think it is, how does it come to be real in  society, which it surely is?

Here is an answer to how race is real in society,  but no more than a social construction. Racial taxonomy, or the conceptual scheme whereby everyone belongs to one of three or four races, is a simple  scheme of classification, much simpler than astrology, for instance. This taxonomy is taught to children early on in their socialization. Along with the  classification go physical, cultural, and psychological  stereotypes for each race, which are less complicated  than the (astrological) traits of Aquarius, Pisces,  Leo, and so forth. More complicated, however, is the  epistemology of racial sorting, and that is the most  interesting part of the social construction of race.  People are sorted into racial categories based on  criteria that differ for different races and different  individuals within the same race. To consider the  big three: blacks require but one black ancestor to  be black, but they can have any number of nonblack  ancestors; whites require no nonwhite ancestors  and a white appearance; Asians require ancestors  from a list of countries believed to be “Asian.” All of  the failed scientific bases of race, except for genetics, which is assumed because it is not visible in  ordinary experience, are used to sort people into  relevant races. Appearance or phenotype is always  the favored criterion, but it has to be confirmed by  geographical location of ancestors and the race of  an individual’s social family. If the sorting cannot be  done by direct observation, because the individual  is filling out a form, or the individual’s appearance  is ambiguous, the individual can be asked, directly  or indirectly, crudely or with finesse, “What race are  you?” Thus, stated racial membership is another criterion (except for cases of “passing”).

We can see from this account that first of all,  the taxonomy of race, like all taxonomies, is socially  constructed in the trivial way. People invented and  embellished the taxonomy as a symbolic system.  Once the taxonomy was broadly accepted, specific  traits of individuals could be used to construct the  races of those individuals. Conveniently, racial sorting did not have to take place on an individual basis,  but entire geographical groups have been, and still  are, lined up with components of the taxonomy, for  example, inhabitants of Africa were, and still are, designated members of the black race. Racial sorting is  a complicated, dynamic system, and since it changes  over history and has different nuances within the  United States and over the world, it is arbitrary.

However, it is not the problems with the epistemology of race, which qualify it as a social construction in the nontrivial sense, but the fact that  the taxonomy of race is itself fictitious—it does not  have the physical basis that it is assumed to have. If  people viewed race as what used to be called a  “parlor game” and did not regard the taxonomy itself  as real, there would be no problem with it. It might  even be a good social construction in a part of social  reality, as many games are. The problematic aspect  of race, which underlies what qualifies it as a social  construction in the harmful sense that Hacking  draws attention to, is twofold: people regard the taxonomy as biologically real; the components of the  taxonomy have different connotations of human  psychic worth.

The ingredients of a racial paradigm at any given  time would include a taxonomy of race, the criteria for membership in different races and theirapplication to individuals, social customs and laws  that pertain to race, moral beliefs about different  race relations, expectations for change in social  areas pertaining to race, ideologies of race, and  beliefs about the connections between physical race  and human psychic attributes. Because beliefs, rules,  practices, and formal social structures are all parts  of it, a racial paradigm is not merely a symbolic system but its accompanying life world, as well. From  this theoretical perspective, we can distinguish at  least three paradigms of race. The first, from the late  eighteenth century to the early twentieth, had hierarchical racial taxonomies favoring whites, which  rankings were believed to be unchanging and morally just. Different human psychic capacities and  their expressions were held to be determined by  racial heredity, as were physical characteristics.

The second paradigm of race took up most of  the twentieth century, and except for revisions in  the biological sciences, where they were previously  racialist, and philosophical inquiries such as this  one, it remains culturally dominant. Ideas of human  psychic endowments have been disengaged from  physical racial taxonomies. The white-supremacist  customs and institutional practices that were considered morally right under the first paradigm have  been subjected to intense criticism, with considerable progress toward their elimination.

The third paradigm of race would be the last  one. Its core positive belief and principle underlying  action is that race is biologically unreal. Once social  racial taxonomies are eliminated, the correction of  racialist white-supremacist customs and institutional practices would continue. But, the theoretical  basis on which they are corrected will likely move  away from direct or emic conceptualizations of race,  in favor of the descriptions of beliefs and empirical descriptions of economic and social inequalities  that can be addressed by changes in education and  public policy.

People believe that race is real, and their belief has  been enlivened by greed, fear, anger, and cruelty that  often have nothing to do with race, as a motivating  idea. But the belief in race has also itself been suffi-  cient to occasion distinctive emotions, motives, and  moral attitudes. The results have been racist psychic  states and dispositions and racist practices. Racism  has been the main use for the social construction  of race.

Racism consists of individual and social preferences and aversions based on different racial  identities. It has both deliberate forms and socially  mechanistic ones that perpetuate themselves in  the apparent absence of ill will toward victims. For  example, some philosophy professors assume that  African American students are not likely to want  to learn philosophy, so they reserve their intensive  pedagogy for white students. Over their careers,  these academics tend not to recruit many or any  African American philosophy majors or graduate  students. Over time, the field of philosophy does  not change in its predominantly white membership. Where blacks were once explicitly excluded  as a consequence of their more general exclusion  from higher education, they now simply—not  that anything like this is ever simple—continue to  fail to develop enduring interests in philosophy. 15  Furthermore, some philosophers do not believe  that the present situation is racist, because many  of the white philosophers involved do not have  self-acknowledged feelings of hatred, aversion, or  contempt for blacks. But if one views the situation  in terms of a concept of institutional racism, it is  racist.

When victims of racism racially identify themselves in order to resist and combat racism, they  positively affirm the very identities that are used  by racists in ways that have victimized them. Even  if they have transvalued the oppressive identities  within communities of resistance, the identities  still refer back to their racialist or racist origins.  There would be no point to the transvaluation if  external racism did not exist as something to be  resisted and overcome. If racial identities were  biological facts, then those identities would not be  part of racial injustice. Racial identities have not been biological facts as those are understood by  biologists since the early twentieth century, and  persistent racial taxonomies depend on an ontological commitment to the existence of race as  something that can be studied by science. Moreover, all racial taxonomies make a division between  whites and nonwhites, which was originally posited  by European whites for their own advantage. For  these reasons, the affirmation of nonwhite identities probably has an intrinsic ceiling concerning the degree of justice that it can achieve. Such  affirmation has been the road most traveled ever  since Du Bois cautioned American blacks against  minimizing racial difference, because he believed  that they needed to strive to fulfill the destiny of  their race.

The lack of a biological basis for race is not a  political issue. Still, interested parties will want to  know exactly how that information will affect the  politics of race as it has thus far developed in the  service of social justice. If politics is a struggle for  power and advantage or decreased disadvantage,  the scientific facts are irrelevant unless they can  be translated into motivating and empowering  rhetoric. For such rhetorical purposes, emic racial  identities are probably more useful because they  require less intellectual effort to evoke. But stating it this way expresses a cynical condescension  toward politicians, activists, and their public(s).  Politics, political action, and rhetoric should be  principled, with the aim of bettering the human  condition and not merely obtaining more desirable relations of power. The core of good politics is a commitment to the life and dignity of  all human beings. Such universalism would be  compatible with common sense racial taxonomy  if it were a system of mere variety and not one  of value-laden difference. Twentieth-century liberatory racial politics was a series of footnotes to  Du Bois played out as an insistence on the compatibility of existing racial taxonomy (containing an ontological commitment to biological  race) with universal equality. Many liberatory and  radical activists and scholars of race do not trust  whites not to discriminate and behave unjustly to  nonwhites unless nonwhite racial identities are  explicitly mentioned, noticed, and acknowledged.  Legal critical race theorists have argued that the  race-neutral language of egalitarian law does not  address existing racism, because it assumes it is  possible to view all citizens as though they had no  racial identities. In fact, unquestioned and pervasive discrimination on the basis of race often  excludes nonwhites completely, so that contexts in  apparent compliance with legal race neutrality are  often contexts inhabited exclusively by whites. 17  The resulting political strategy has been to insist  on visible and recognized nonwhite racial identities as integral ingredients in a new democratic  pluralism.

What would happen if it became common  knowledge that race in the emic biological sense  did not exist? Possibly, new pseudobiological  grounds for discrimination and aversion would be  constructed. Certainly, there would continue to be  social injustice against the poor, because they are  the most vulnerable component of the capitalistic  global corporate enterprise. But it is an empirical  question exactly whether and how the present victims of racism might benefit from being relieved  of false biological identities. It will require great  courage to allow such a question to be answered  through the actions of others, whom those most  concerned with outcomes have no direct influence  over and small reason to trust. The individual and  small group project of relinquishing false biological notions of race will have two phases. The first  is the acquisition and distribution of the required  information about human biology. This scientific  literacy will proceed at a slow pace through the  academy until it is disseminated at the secondary  and primary school levels. On the way, the resistance of the mass media to educated opinion that is  not sensationalistic about race will have to be worn  down, something that will probably happen only  as the three-race generation is replaced by the norace generation in research, business, and policymaking positions. That is the cognitive phase of the  project.

The second phase of relinquishing false biological notions of race is the practical one of  rethinking, undoing, and redoing those aspects of ordinary life and discourse, both oppressive and  liberatory, which rely on assumptions that racial  taxonomies and individual racial differences are  real in ways that can be studied by biology. This  revision will require a reexamination of received  texts and the discovery and creation of new ones  in many different fields. So far, the racial liberatory focus has been confined to issues of racism  and reactions against it. Needed now will be concentration on the ways in which ungrounded  taxonomies of race inform discourse. It will be  necessary to reach a lucid understanding of what  it literally and metaphorically means to use words  and phrases such as these: black, Indian, Jewish,  or any kind of racial blood, bloodlines, mixed  blood, pure blood, racial solidarity, brotherhood,  sisterhood, black ancestry, racial heritage, racial  identity, or racial authenticity. These are just a few  polite examples.

Discourse affects perception. It has become a  sign of astuteness for African Americans to claim  that when they look into the mirror, they do not  see a man or woman before the glass, but a black  man or a black woman. It has also become a sign of  social awareness for everyone to notice whether or  not a group or institution is racially diverse. Both  self-perception and the perception of others as  racially identified presuppose that racial identity is  given in perception, whether one makes a point of  noticing it or not. Suppose one looked at oneself  and others and merely noted those physical characteristics that are used to socially construct race,  without thereby constructing race? What will we  see? How will what we see affect the humanity we  take for granted or withhold from ourselves and  others?

Where general discourse is embedded with a  persistent idea, the idea has an effect on actions  and institutions that go beyond the medium of  discourse. For instance, is it racism that keeps the  United States residentially segregated, or might it  not also at core be racialism? Much more would  be at stake in the shift from the second to the last  paradigm of race, than cognition, perception, discourse, and social habit. Economics and politics  would be involved, and it is money that could  speed up a process of cultural change otherwise  requiring centuries. It is not a coincidence that the  widespread presence of women in the American  workplace accompanied the shift from a manufacturing to an informational and service economy  during a period of inflation that made it necessary  for women to contribute to household income.  Slavery was a profitable form of agricultural  business for the South, and during the period of  intense segregation, blacks in the workforce continued to be exploited by whites who despised  them socially and excluded them politically. The  hatred and genocide of Native Americans accompanied their dispossession from ancestral lands.  In the West, during the late nineteenth and early  twentieth centuries, Asian immigrants were a  source of cheap labor for railroad construction  and agriculture, and they were treated with great  cruelty and contempt. Today, disproportionate  numbers of African Americans are “in” the criminal justice system, and some critics now call it  “the prison industrial complex,” because inmates  represent jobs for prison personnel and profits for  contractors.

I don’t want to milk what alert adolescents  now know or put too great a burden on neoMarxian insights. But, it is important to realize  that while the racial identities assigned to those  exploited have oiled the wheels of exploitation,  those identities have often been extrinsic and ad  hoc to the brute facts of exploitation. It couldn’t  have been otherwise, given that there never existed  any such thing as biological race. The more brutal  the exploitation, the greater the vilification of its  victims by those benefiting from their servitude  and death. The fulcrum for historical change on  behalf of the victims of exploitation is not a matter  of how they are identified before, during, or after  exploitation, but the material conditions that make  them vulnerable to exploitation in the first place.  Because American economic exploitation is mostly  a matter of profit, and the business of America is  still business, material conditions are most of the  story. This subject exceeds the scope of this paper,  but it is the next subject after the disabuse of  “race.”

As a practice, the revision of biological ideas  of race will reach so deeply into lives based on  racial affinities and aversions that the world will  not merely become a more just place in issues of  race, but it will no longer be the same world. 19 Even  the most dedicated and idealistically motivated,  and especially them, barely have enough minutes  in the day to fulfill their present work, family,  social, and civic obligations. How will they have  time to effect such change, and with little thanks  at the outset? As the practical project of revising  life worlds imbued with false ideas of race progresses, it will free up the time and effort presently  consumed by race. Because race is a construction  requiring constant sorting and identification, it is  a dynamic, ongoing, performative process. There  is nothing about anyone’s racial membership that  is simply attached once. Racial membership must  constantly be tended, remembered, enacted, and  reenacted. Some nonracial part of consciousness  must always be ready to assess what is required  from a racial self. Under Jim Crow, black men had  to remember not to look at white women, and  today they have to remember not to scare white  women if they encounter them alone at night on  city streets. Whites have to remember that they can  count on certain unearned advantages that increase  directly with the degree of racism in the context.  Asian Americans have to remember to let white  Americans know that they were born in the United  States and to forgive them for assuming that they  were instead born somewhere “in Asia.” As I revise  this manuscript, the current war following September 11, 2001, is contributing to many things that  Islamic Americans will have to remember about  how they are perceived. Children of all races need  to be periodically reminded of their racial membership and of what their elders consider to be the  obligations or “dues” that accompany it. Given all  this, it’s probably not a matter of finding the time  to undo race, but of appreciating in retrospect how  much time was spent doing it, andand making good  use of the resources thus liberated.

In immediate pragmatic terms, interested  parties will want to know how, while this great  revision is occurring, they are expected to view  contemporary laws against racial discrimination,  as well as the remnants of affirmative action. Will  the acknowledged demise of biological race render  such measures redundant? I think that anyone who  is familiar with race relations in the United States,  both past and present, anyone who lives in the culture with a modicum of awareness of how advantages and disadvantages get distributed, would  sense that the acknowledged biological emptiness  of race is no guarantee that old epistemologies of  common sense race won’t continue to operate, or  that biological race will not still be constructed.  But the construction will be driven underground.  Witches were believed to be real, the majority  thought that they could identify them, and when  it was convenient, they tormented and persecuted  them. After it came to be generally acknowledged  that witches did not exist, it was witch hunters and  witch tormentors, in a word, “witchists,” who were  on the defensive. Even private social discrimination  against witches in cultures failing to believe that  witches existed would be difficult to imagine. We  have already seen such a process at work between  the first and second paradigms of race. The first  paradigm belief that inferior psyches and cultures  accompanied nonwhite racial identities has been  rejected as an unacceptable form of racism under  the second paradigm. However, the pragmatic  answer to the above question is that all of the laws  protecting nonwhites against racism, and probably  more such laws, are necessary until racism no longer exists, no matter how long that takes. In short,  racism must be treated separately from the facts  about race, even though the facts about race represent its ultimate demise, now in theory, later in  practice. (254)

The Stakes

 During the mid 1990s, an erudite and well-published African philosopher of my acquaintance,  who had been an American citizen for several years,  applied to be nominated for a university affirmative  action position in a department of philosophy, also  of my acquaintance. The candidate gave a talk about  his work to the philosophy department and was interviewed on campus. The members of the philosophy department who participated in the interviewing process were all white males. Much to his  disappointment, the candidate was not accepted for  nomination by the philosophy department, because  they did not think he was “really” a philosopher. He  was a mature man, much traveled, and educated in  England, so he was aware firsthand of the history  of colonialism and postcolonialism in Africa and  beyond. He said to me, “Oh, I know these white guys  from way back. They don’t change much. Maybe an  inch a century.”

There remains much ongoing institutional  racism in the United States, as well as recalcitrant  pockets of overt and deliberate individual racism  against nonwhites. However, given that the public  still lives within a racial paradigm, the civil rights,  voting rights, and immigration rights secured by  nonwhites in the United States over the twentieth  century are at least an inch of change. The next inch  will have to be gained first within educated liberatory movements that have disabused themselves of  empirically ungrounded biological notions of race,  races, racial identities, and individual racial projects.

Some will say, “So what if race is a social construction? Ordinary racist life will not be disturbed  by this so-called news of the lack of biological foundation.” How do they know that this news will have  no effect, when the belief that race is biological is  embedded in “race” as a social construction? Race is  like the liar who says he speaks the truth, the social  construction that is constructed around denial that  it is a social construction.

The notion of race as biological is not an  abstract fact that is independent of other vital  beliefs held by people. Race as biological has been a  vast network of practical ideas and thought, which  to name a few includes: ideals of beauty, sexuality  and forms of gender, notions of special skills, ideas  about character, virtue, vice, wealth, the family, and  superiority and inferiority. And each of those ideas  and more has been lived out in emotion, experience,  and behavior.

Du Bois’s envisioned dawn was an idea of  legal equality and economic and educational  opportunity for blacks in America. The civil rights  legislation of the 1960s was the historical face of  Du Bois’s dawn. That time has been succeeded by  morning and the fatigue of late morning. We are  now at a High Noon, when war, terror, new projects of racialization, the complete corporate colonization of the world, and its attendant ecological  depletion, demand a degree of vigilance, against  which attachment to identities based on outdated  science is frivolous. It would also be frivolous for  me, here, to attempt further rhetoric toward getting  those who think “left” to recognize a basic scientific  truth about humankind. Those to the “right” are  still not off the hook concerning institutional racism. We should all think straight about this matter  that runs deeper than politics.

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