After Race: Racism after Multiculturalism

By Antonia Darder; Rodolfo D. Torres | Go to book overview

1
Does “Race” Matter?
Transatlantic Perspectives
on Racism after “Race Relations”

with Robert Miles

The survival of the United States as a democracy depends on the
dismantling of the race concept. (Graves 2001, 11)

In April 1993, one year after the Los Angeles civil unrest, a major U.S. publisher published a book with the creatively ambiguous title Race Matters by the distinguished scholar Cornel West. The back cover of the slightly revised edition, published the following year, categorized it as a contribution to both African American studies and current affairs. The latter was confirmed by the publisher’s strategy of marketing the book as a “trade” rather than an “academic” title—this was a book for the “American public” to read. And the American public was assured that they were reading a quality product when they were told that its author had “built a reputation as one of the most eloquent voices in America’s racial debate.”

Some two years later, the Los Angeles Times (February 20, 1995) published an article by its science writer under the headline “Scientists Say Race Has No Biological Basis.” The opening paragraph ran as follows:

Researchers adept at analyzing the genetic threads of human diversity
said Sunday that the concept of race—the source of abiding cultural and
political divisions in American society—simply has no basis in funda-
mental human biology. Scientists should abandon it.

-25-

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