A cartoon illustration of a stack of 3 books, next to a picture of the cover of “Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions” by Alan H. Goodman and Joseph L. Graves. It has a brown cover, with the title in big letters that are different shades of skin tones.

Reading Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions explores the myth of biological race in the format of frequently asked questions, answered in depth by co-authors Alan H. Goodman and Joseph L. Graves (a member of the faculty steering committee of LabXchange’s Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education initiative). Published in December 2021, the book draws on natural and social sciences to challenge the faulty but prevalent assumption that race is based on biology and genetics. In so doing, Goodman and Graves address the very real consequences of racism in American society.

Read more about the steering committee: The Making of the Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Science Education Project.

A Commitment to Science and Social Justice

Alan H. Goodman is a professor of biological anthropology at Hampshire College, and Joseph L. Graves is a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. This is their first joint project, and although they come from different disciplines, they “share a commitment to science and social justice.” In the book’s preface, Goodman and Graves write that they first discussed collaborating on a book project in 2019, “when America was on the brink of a racial crisis.” In Racism, Not Race, they share three key lessons:

  1. Racism created the idea of race.
  2. The idea of race has real effects. It gives cover to racism.
  3. Human genetic variation is real (and quite wonderful) and is absolutely not the same as race.

Read more about Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on the Columbia University Press website.

"What is race?"

Drawing on their expertise in biology and anthropology, Graves and Goodman pull examples from throughout history to answer common and fundamental questions about race. These range from “What is race?” to “Do races differ in their athletic ability?” to “Isn’t focusing on race making it even more real?” Throughout, the authors discuss human genetic variations and how they do not fit into socially constructed categories of race. “Many still think that the way we classify race in humans is fundamentally biological,” they write. “However, that race, what we call biological race, does not exist in our species. It is a long-standing myth that provides cover for racism.”

Watch Dr. Graves and Dr. Goodman discussing Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions at Columbia University:

The book also details the relationship between race and social inequality, including health outcomes and the socioeconomic status of marginalized populations. Ultimately, the authors argue that it is racism that informs these social inequities, not race. This is a poignant reminder to everyone working towards social justice to not perpetuate the pseudoscience of race when unpacking the effects of racism. In their review, the Harvard Book Store says Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions provides “persuasive and timely answers” and “shows readers why antiracist principles are both just and backed by sound science.”

Breaking Down Misconceptions of Race

Dispelling the myth that race is biological, reiterating the definition of racism and how it functions in society, and sharing antiracist teaching strategies are also among the core learning outcomes of the RDEISE project. Later this year, LabXchange will publish curricular resources on these topics that can be implemented in the classroom. These will include pathways, articles, and animations, with titles like “Humans do not have biological race” and “Racism, not race, predicts health outcomes.” The faculty steering committee, which includes Dr. Graves, led the development of these resources, ensuring that the content will be thought-provoking and effective.

Guided by the concepts in Racism, Not Race, we also hope it will be fruitful in our pursuit of breaking down harmful misconceptions of race, and deepening our understanding of racism's detrimental impact on American society.

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Written by
LabXchange RDEISE team

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