NPR’s Codeswitch: Is ‘Race Science’ Making A Comeback?

Our nation has long struggled with the idea of racial equality. It was founded on the principals of freedom, yet many of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. Long after the Civil War that ended slavery in America, women and African Americans were still not allowed to vote. Even when American freedoms finally applied to people of all races and genders, people have crawled from the woodwork to talk about racial pseudoscience. They claimed to be able to prove through the study of anatomy that the White Man was truly superior.

Those ideas have long since died out… or so we thought. NPR’s Codeswitch covers the return (if it ever left) of ‘Race Science’.

“After the Second World War, when we saw eugenics play out — saw the consequences of Nazi racial hygiene in the Holocaust — the world kind of took a collective intake of breath and tried to put its house in order. So scientists, policymakers, the United Nations all came together and decided race has no place in biology anymore. It’s not scientifically accurate. Race is not how difference plays out in the real world.


“But there were two problems with this. Number one was the hardcore scientific racists. This includes Nazi race scientists. So the ones who believed that whites were superior, that slavery was justified, that segregation was justified. They kept scientific racism alive within a small, but very active, global network.

“The other aspect is mainstream science. Did everyday scientists really abandon these ideas completely? My argument is no. They clung on to them partly because, of course, racism was still there in society. We still had racism all around the world, discrimination embedded in the structures of institutions. And that means even to this day, there are still scientists who, despite knowing better and despite being mainstream, good-hearted, well-intentioned scientists, still sometimes invoke race in scientific research, particularly medical research, when it’s inappropriate.

NPR’s Codeswitch

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