For decades, arguments of nature versus nurture—or biology versus environment—have fueled the controversy over the causes of racial, ethnic, and ancestral disparities in IQ and a host of social outcomes, including family stability, academic achievement, employment, and civic engagement. This controversy has intensified amid new research showing that racial groups vary not only in the frequency of certain genes linked with physical traits, but in some cases, also in the prevalence of several genes associated with social behaviors. These findings have contributed to the resurrection of a once fading, but recently revamped, twenty-first century racial science, thrusting it again into the national spotlight.
One of the core claims of anti-black racialist scholars and race realists—indeed, the raison d’être of racial science, past and present—is that black Africans and their descendants collectively lack the innate mental, behavioral, and social capabilities to become well-functioning, law-abiding, and productive members of modern society. For more than 300 years, narratives reflecting this sentiment have been repeatedly reinvented and increasingly nuanced to rationalize and institutionalize the marginalization of people of color in Western society. Even today, the assertions of both overt and covert racial scholars seamlessly trickle down to the masses, sometimes as sound bites that reinforce unconscious, if not explicit, anti-black bias.
In a fresh analysis, Science in Black and White integrates and then streamlines evidence from the life sciences, psychology, and social sciences to debunk racial science, especially in regard to people of black African descent. Scientific perspectives on the human condition cannot fully halt, let alone reverse, humanity’s potential collision course of “us” battling “them.” However, as part of a growing global effort to transcend othering and, instead, to advance social justice for disenfranchised and deprived populations, science has its place. It can substantially deepen our knowledge of how nature and nurture combined affect social patterns in diverse human communities. Unraveling the intricate interactions that unfold between biology and environment may be helpful in devising novel strategies for re-engineering at least some aspects of our surroundings.
Innovative environmental interventions that can beneficially transform both the physical (or natural) and social landscapes of African Americans, as well as black populations outside the United States, would be a welcome step toward enhancing their quality of life. Science In Black and White offers a roadmap for translating the scientific counter-evidence used to rebut racial science into pragmatic, environment-driven solutions for improving the life outcomes of underserved populations.
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