Philosophical aspects of the `AAA Statement on "Race"'

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Title: Philosophical aspects of the `AAA Statement on "Race"'
Author: Zack, Naomi, 1944-
Abstract: I apply philosophical analysis to the AAA Statement on "Race"' (American Anthropological Association, 1998) and the commentary on its earlier draft published in the Anthropology Newsletter (1997). Racial essentialism is the theory that there are distinct and general human biological traits that determine racial membership and cause the presence of specific racial traits. This theory is false, as is the belief that a taxonomy of human races, or race, exists. But the 1998 `AAA Statement on "Race"'fails to repudiate racial essentialism explicitly. Instead, the Statement denies that race determines culture or psychology and thereby misses the broad logical point that race cannot determine anything, because it does not exist. In the AN discussion of Kennewick Man, which appeared to be a debate about racial essentialism, contributors spoke past one another in confusing population-based measures of human diversity with race. The same confusion clouds contemporary concerns about the relevance of common-sense racial categories to medical diagnosis and treatment. Education is the solution to the public's ignorance about the scientific foundation for its ideas about race. It is an empirical question whether such education will remedy racism or unjust treatment based on the false racial taxonomy. Although mixed-race categories are no more real than 'pure' ones, their acceptance may help unsettle the prevailing false taxonomy of race.
Description: 20 p.
Date: 2001-12

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