Throughout American history racist policies, laws, and social systems influenced by race ‘science’ have inspired, inflamed and exacerbated racist, anti-immigrant, and pro-colonizer ideas. Every single presentation on different race ‘science’ influenced policies in class was linked by a common thread, that of othering and demonization of non-white people due to a desire by those in power to remain in power, and by those with economic success to maintain that stability. These ideas continue to persist in the modern day in the distinctions made in society regarding citizenship, American identity, and cultural belonging.
Pseudo-scientific ideas of race have crept into policies and laws in the United States since the country's inception. After the abolition of slavery, pseudo-scientific ideas of race were widely used to lower the social standing of those who were newly emancipated. This manifested in highly arbitrary property, vangracy, and suffrage laws which were meant to restrict land ownership, economic mobility, and voting rights for Black people. These policies remained the norm for over 50 years and set a difficult precedent for treatment of people of color in the United States long after the laws were removed. In 2023, people of color continue to face struggles with health, education, and incarceration which can be directly traced back to these policies.
Evidently, the idea of race now is deeply embedded in our society. In that sense, race is very real, and is something that deeply impacts every single person on a daily basis. As Angela Saini said on the NPR Code Switch podcast, “We can't biologize blanket ideas about who people are, because these are socially constructed ideas. I think it's deeply dangerous, because it falls into the same trap that the people who invented race in the first place wanted us to fall into. The people who hardened these categories wanted us to believe that we are fundamentally different. We are not fundamentally different.” Saini demonstrates how we should acknowledge race, but only as something that has become a way of distinguishing, grouping, and separating each other socially, not as something that is innate in the biology of each and every individual.
Gavin Evans’ article “the unwelcome revival of race science” provides an excellent example of what Saini is warning against. The article states that there are many on the right who “like to use pseudoscience to lend intellectual justification to ethno-nationalist politics.” He explains that “If you believe that poor people are poor because they are inherently less intelligent, then it is easy to leap to the conclusion that liberal remedies, such as affirmative action or foreign aid, are doomed to fail.” With this rhetoric, modern day policies which are meant to absolve the lingering effects of old harmful systems of ideas are being attacked using those same ideas. Once again, people are trying to biologize ideas of race because they feel threatened in their own privileged position in society. Thus, race ‘science,’ though debunked, continues to serve as an incredibly harmful justification for racist arguments that seek to prevent the advancement of those previously oppressed in society. Race science continues to serve as barrier in the way of improvement in our world, and people must more actively work against these systems to prevent them from continuing to cause harm.