Is it the case that race is real? Clearly, you and I view the modern American discourse concerning race and we see that it is indeed real, or at the very least, it is treated as being real. However, does this mean that it is real? In other words, are races well-defined groups that fit into biological taxonomies?
Perhaps this last question is much to complicated for the current discourse on race-relations in the United States. But it must be understood that the notion of race is not settled in the sciences of anthropology, biology, and genetics, nor is it settled in the philosophies.
Case in point, Richard Lewontin published a genetics paper in 1972; and from his paper’s findings, he found little difference between different groups of humans. As a consequence Lewontin stated
Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.
But in 2003, A.W.F. Edwards criticized Lewontin’s findings. In fact, Edwards’ retort is now known as Lewontin’s Fallacy.
The question of “Is race real?” is important to consider because it lends to the viability and reliability of our civil discourse. It also lends to the potential policies that may be applied for those from traditionally disenfranchised groups here in the United States.
If you’ve taken the time to read my previous points, you will realize that there are at least two arguments of how to approach economic, political, and social policies for “black” Americans. There is the liberal structuralist’s argument by Dr. Cornel West and the conservative behaviorist’s argument by Shelby Steele.
But both of these arguments lend to the notion that race is indeed real. But if philosophers and scientists are in dispute of the reality of race, then perhaps the whole exercise of attempting to apply policies to fix something that may or may not be real is really an act of misguided, mental gymnastics.
Indeed, there is a reality of how people are treated based off of their respective skin colors in some instances. There is evidence that illustrates the economic mobility of one group of people compared to another group of people. There is evidence that illustrates higher incarceration rates, and I stress rates, of one group of people compared to another group of people. And certainly history shows that one group of people have been favored economically, politically, and socially compared to other groups of people. These facts are well documented.
The point is that these things can all be true, and I believe they are, while race is not true. The consequence of such a notion would mean a change in paradigm and how Americans view themselves, each other, and the world.
That is this Thursday’s Naked truth.