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The Arts & Science Undergraduate Society

Fatal Invention

Fatal Invention

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By Dorothy Roberts

When Americans see people of color doing the most of the menial jobs, dying younger from most diseases, and filling most of the prison cells, it seems, to many, that race intrinsically and inevitably divides us into separate types of people. In centuries past, scientists invented a biological concept of race and claimed it was an essential feature of human identity. Though the Human Genome Project proved a decade ago that human beings are not naturally divided by race, an emerging technologically driven science is resuscitating race as a biological category written in our genes. 

Examples are both far-reaching and disturbing: Researchers are developing a genetic definition of race based on statistical estimates of gene frequencies -- estimates that conveniently mirror eighteenth-century racial typologies. The pharmaceutical industry promotes race-targeted therapies. Law enforcement uses stop and frisks, which disproportionately target African-Americans, as a way to capture cheek swabs that build DNA criminal databases. And a proliferation of for-profit ancestry-testing services would have us believe that spitting into a test tube will tell us not only who we are but "what" -- that is, what race, we truly are. 

In this provocative analysis of race, science, and politics, leading legal scholar and social critic Dorothy Roberts exposes how race as an archaic belief system-- justified by cutting edge science-- undermines a just society and promotes inequality well into the twenty-first century. Fatal Invention is a brilliant, timely book; it is also an urgent call for us to affirm our common humanity by ending social inequality preserved by the political system of race. 

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