Cover Image: Racism, Not Race

Racism, Not Race

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Member Reviews

This book was easy to read and comprehend. I really enjoyed the question and answer format and think that made it easier to digest. A very powerful book that everyone should read. Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC.
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Author Graves is a biologist; Author Goodman is a biological anthropologist. These are scientists answering a series of questions that have, for over a century, pretended to be scientific excuses for the hate-based ideology of racism.

There is one race: Human. <I>Homo sapiens</i> is the genus and species of each and every one of us.

The format of this book is supremely simple. Its chapters, titled eg "Everything You Wanted to Know About Genetics and Race" and "Intelligence, Brains, and Behaviors" (bonus points for not forcing me to retrofit the series/Oxford comma, gents!), are organized around questions, eg "What do geneticists mean by the structure of human variation?" and "In the twentieth century, were Jews, Italians, and Irish thought to be separate races?" and "When doctors, epidemiologists, and other medical scientists say that race is a risk factor, what do they mean?" There is, at the very front of the Kindle book, a hyperlinked list of all the questions raised in this book. It could not be easier to use if it was an audiobook that read itself to you.

The Notes section, which (I realize and suspect the authors do, too) you aren't all that likely to read, is more than a simple list of people and projects cited; the authors also provide some editorial comments worth your time to follow the hyperlinks to see. There arequite a lot of them, but there's such a thing as telling too much (in fiction, called "spoilering" and apparently a thing I do a lot despite trying to think like a spoilerphobe).

I'll conclude with a ringing endorsement of this exercise in calm, logic- and fact-based debunking of enduring hate-based myths. The authors said it best of all:
<blockquote>Antiracism starts with understanding what race is and isn't. Antiracism is not just an ethical and scientifically correct position; it is necessary for our survival.</blockquote>
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This subject matter is very important, and the author treats it as such. It's eye-opening and extensive, particularly when discussing race as a sociological phenomenon rather than a biological one. A good book to have on hand to dispel hurtful myths.
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This is an extraordinarily well done book, and it's also extremely thought provoking. As such, it is not the easiest or quickest read as your meant to actually think and sit with what this book is explaining.
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When reading books like this, I often approach them from the point of view of my students. As a teacher, especially as a white teacher, it is important that I bring issues of race into my classroom. I seldom have the time or opportunity to use entire books. Still, you never know when a chapter or couple of pages might come in handy. In the case of Racism, Not Race, this book provided an impetus for me to tweak how I teach about race during my unit on media literacy and stereotypes. Mainly, I really appreciate Joseph L. Graves, Jr. and Alan H. Goodman's approach to explaining, consistently and repeatedly, that biological race is not a thing.

Thanks to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for the e-ARC review copy.

In the first chapters, Graves and Goodman examine the historical origins of race in European science and colonialism. They provide a very clear explanation of Blumenbach, Linnaeus, and all the other people involved in attempting to codify scientific, biologically-based races. They clearly connect this to the need by seventeenth century Europe to justify things like the enslavement of African people. They use modern genetics to debunk the existence of biological race and, along the way, disentangle related concepts like ancestry and geographic variation. The bottom line? Much like Emily Nagoski concluded in Come As You Are, there is more variation within a given population than between populations. That is to say, two people of European ancestry might be more genetically different from one another than from a third person of predominantly African ancestry! I particularly liked the point that the phenotypical markers we use to supposedly decide on someone’s race are arbitrary—that is, we often associate race with skin colour but not eye colour, even though both traits are ultimately genetic.

After exploring these concepts, Graves and Goodman devote the remainder of the book to asking specific questions about the social and medical implications of race as a social construct. For example, they explore how medicine tends to use race as a proxy for things like ancestry or other data points that are more difficult to pin down. They discuss hate crimes, police brutality, and environmental racism. They really cover a lot of ground here. The Q&A style sections will likely appeal to many people; I was rather indifferent to them. But I can’t knock how thorough this book is!

That being said, while Graves and Goodman might be great scientists and good communicators, I’m not sure they are great science communicators. Graves and Goodman write in a very accessible tone that would be great for beginners to antiracism. Yet when they talk science, their explanations tend to be very technical, and even someone like me with a fairly good layperson’s scientific background started to feel lost. So on the one hand, I really want to recommend this as a “starter” book for people who need these questions on race and racism answered—on the other hand, I’m hesitant simply because I think some of the jargony science explanations will turn those same people off this book. On the whole, I recommend this book but wanted to register this caveat.

Racism, Not Race is definitely the type of book we need. Pair it with So You Want to Talk About Race, which is a bit more of a personal and cultural spin on racism. Whatever your race, books like this help you unlearn internalized ideas that just aren’t true. And if you are white, like me, in particular they point out the ways in which our society functions to uphold whiteness—things we don’t see, or can ignore, because of our privilege. These books are necessary because, as Graves and Goodman point out, plenty of people these days are not intentionally being racist, yet racism still exists, and will always exist until we change and rebuild the systems that serve to exclude and oppress people we don’t consider to be white.
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I learned some interesting things while reading this book, particularly the medical side of how different social races are treated – that’s some scary stuff. This book opened my eyes in that regard, in that if there are differences in race it is because of the social aspect. However, this book reads like a textbook. There is a lot of science that would be boring to the average person, as well as too many tables and graphs. And I love reading about science. There is a way to write about science that makes it interesting, and this book missed the mark on that front. There was also a lot of repetition. I don’t believe this book is meant for the average layperson to learn about racism.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Very comprehensive and factual writings about the concept of race. I truly feel I learned a lot from this book. It was very eye-opening. A must read! I read this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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"Racism, Not Race" by Graves and Goodman , two outstanding scientists, was an eye-opening treatise.  One of the items that was of interest is the differentiation between racism and race as the title alludes.  Historical perspectives as well as current timely views are brought into focus.

There are allusions to the biological basis of race, which actually does not exist in humans and the ties that have been used to further the notion of better and worse races.  All of this is explained biologically and why the actual idea of "race" does not apply to people.  

The book is well-written and describes several eye-opening ideas to help academics and others understand what humans get wrong about ideas of race but how we can resist what some would claim to be a natural order of racism.. The hate of others is a pernicious trap that racists often use to excuse their feelings and try to give it a scientific rationale.

Reading this treatise really opens the eyes of the reader, assuming there is an openness to learn and change.  Some readers will find fault with the ideas and maybe even the science but to this reader they would be pulling on prejudices that have become their psyche and are looking for excuses.

Id opine that this should be required reading at the collegiate level and maybe even in high schools, although there would be likely repercussions, certainly in some areas (maybe most) of the United States.  We still have a long way to go to be inclusive and not excuse ideas that are inspired by a racism, maybe even a subliminal one.
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"Racism, Not Race" was very approachable and readable due to the fact that it was formatted in questions and answers. After taking classes on racism and anthropology in college, I've been very interested in the distinction between race as biological, social, and cultural constructs. This book directly answered those questions and was written by expert scientists in those fields.
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First, I want to thank Columbia University Press & NetGalley for the prepublication copy of this book.  This book contains relevant information for the conversation on racism. in America.  I really liked the use of  Q&A for the topics in the book.  I thought the Q&A format was great.  With this foundation, the book felt like a much-need conversation on racism.  I liked that Graves & Goodman started the conversation on what race is not.  By starting this way, they were able to build on this relationship for the entire book. The authors backed up their assessment with critical facts.  

There were periods of the book that were harder to read than others.  I found myself reading certain parts multiple times to fully understand the concept in those sections.  All in all, I would recommend this book to others.  This book is essential reading anyone ready to have the much-needed conversation on race & racism in America.
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This is an important subject, and having all the information about it in one place is valuable.  The chapters provide full coverage of all the areas of life where race is supposed to explain things, and show how it doesn't.  This is not only because race doesn't actually exist biologically (only socially), but also because the real explanation is racism.

Having said that, I have a few quibbles.  Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read a prepublication version of this book.  This is my first NetGalley book so maybe that's why my first complaint is that OMG THIS NEEDS A THOROUGH COPY EDIT!  Sometimes it's clearly a matter of typos (nobody today misspells Barack).  Other times a sentence doesn't make sense because it was probably written one way, then changed without removing traces of the first way.

I am a reasonable smart educated person and the chapter on genetics was unintelligible to me.  I think the topic is important and needs addressing, but I would recommend writing it as if you were addressing an audience of 15 year olds who don't even know the difference between genotype and phenotype.  There is just too much information here and I can't make heads or tails of it.  We don't need EVERYTHING we ever wanted to know about genetics.  The bottom line is that all the characteristics that make up socially defined "races" are pretty much on the same level as blue eyes or brown hair in terms of their defining a "race."

At the same time, they reference epigenetics which as far as I could tell means the effects of an organism's environment on its DNA. They don't tell you much except that it's really a thing.  Intuitively it makes sense such a thing happens, but I would like to know more about how it works because my general understanding has been that your DNA can't be changed short of high tech genetic engineering (like, the COVID vaccine can't change your DNA).

So maybe rethink the entire chapter.

There is one thing I think needs to be fixed later in the book.  On page 180 reference is made to a study done by "Alan and his colleagues" of teeth and bones from a slave graveyard in Manhattan, in which they were able to determine which individuals had been born and grown up in the US vs  imported from Africa by the amount of lead in their remains. The problem is that a little earlier this study is discussed in more detail and credit for the idea is given to a black graduate student by name.  It made me unhappy to not see his name on page 180 and I think this should be rectified. I'm sure the authors would agree.

The recommendations at the end are thorough and sensible, and just like most other things of this nature they leave me sad because nothing of the sort will ever happen in this country.  Their chilling warning will be ignored but it's accurate: when fascism arose in Europe and began to spread, the US came to the rescue and beat it down, but if fascism and white supremacy continue to rise here there is no one who will come to our rescue.

This is the kind of book an antiracist person would want to have on the shelf, for those times when someone says some ignorant racist thing and you want a whole chapter of information about why that specific thing isn't true.
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