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The Myth of Race

The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea
Narrated by: David Colacci
Length: 15 hrs and 26 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Although eugenics is now widely discredited, some groups and individuals claim a new scientific basis for old racist assumptions. Pondering the continuing influence of racist research and thought, despite all evidence to the contrary, Robert Wald Sussman explains why - when it comes to race - too many people still mistake bigotry for science.

©2014 The President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An important look at race, genetics, & politics

The belief in race as an objective, biological reality has been very strong, pervasive, and significant in much of public policy. Yet scientists say it is simply not real. There is neither very much genetic variability in humans compared to other species, even our closest relatives, nor is it distributed in humans in anything like the consistent patterns that, in other species, define the biological concept of races.

Humans are all one species, with no subspecies, no biological races.

Yet the idea is powerful and persistent. Robert Wald Sussman lays out the history of the idea of races, and early explanations for differences. He works through the ideas of pre-Adamites (separate, earlier creations of non-white humans, also called polygenesis), and degeration (the idea that humans are all descendants of Adam, but non-whites are degenerated forms, also called monogenesis.)

Monogenesis at least left open the possibility that differences might be environmental, and perhaps be overcome, but that was often an inconvenient, and thus unpopular, idea.

He also lays out the completely unscientific nature of these ideas. Humans are all descended from the same source, and as noted above, there's very little genetic variation in humans compared to other species. (A friend involved with English shepherds and responsible breeding commented that, by dog breeding standards, humans have a terrifying COI, i.e., coefficient of inbreeding.)

Sussman describes the intertwined effects of the pseudo-scientific theories of racial origins and racial inferiority, and the political theories and policies that grew from them--including the rise of the eugenics movement in the US and Germany. Influences flowed back and forth between Germany and the US, getting worse and worse.

At the same time, the rise of real genetic science, and the development of cultural anthropology, also began to undermine those theories.

It's a fascinating and alarming account, and the racial theories are still with us today, affecting today's policies on immigration, education, health care, and the social safety net. It's well written, read well by the narrator, and tremendously informative.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

Rich in History & Dry As Humanly Possible

I found the book rich and well-written. Definitely written and delivered in an extremely matter-of-fact manner--extremely historical with nearly no nuanced perspective of a highly subjective idea as a ”myth.” If you have not been trained academically in the art of finding interest in boring reading material, then skip this or read it yourself in a less dying cadence (knock on wood, sorry Mr. Colacci). The reading is reminiscent of retired historian Sidney Fine's reading style. I had several nightmares sitting in his history lectures wanting to be anywhere else. Torture. Torture. Torture. (RIP bro, you were cool but yeah. Torture)

I gather, though, that not much enjoyment could come of the writing. The story went from title with ”myth” to ”history book” super quickly. I think the author likely had the original title "The History of Pseudo-scientific Racism." Would have been less deceptive. Regardless, loved it for the rich amount of info--will buy the book. A must-have for anyone with an advanced degree, teaching grad level or below, and personally enthusiastic about the topic and looking for a good (motivational) challenge. Good luck!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating and informative

This book broadened my understanding of racism and of the forces behind it. A must read

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great

Really good when looking at why Race is a thing and where it came from.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An Eye Opener on The Myth of Race

For decades I have wondered what racism is about, where it came from, and how people fell into that mindset. This book cleared that up for me. It clearly outlines when and where racism started, how it was introduced into these United States and the world.

What is Eugenics? Who started it? What happened when the Nazis got a hold of it? These questions and more are answered in this book. As I listened, I searched the Internet for the many historical documents mentioned and found the original writings which added to my understanding.

I highly recommend this book.

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Excellent history of race in America

This book gives a detailed history of the eugenics movement in America an the attempts by wealthy Wasps to control the non-white population in the USA by any means, including forced sterilization.

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Very enlightening

Very informative on the background and foundation of how the ignorance of racism has been perpetuated over time. Bold and direct approach to combat this historical disease.