An incisive, groundbreaking book that examines how a biological concept of race is a myth that promotes inequality in a supposedly “post-racial” era.
Though the Human Genome Project proved that human beings are not naturally divided by race, the emerging fields of personalized medicine, reproductive technologies, genetic genealogy, and DNA databanks are attempting to resuscitate race as a biological category written in our genes.
This groundbreaking book by legal scholar and social critic Dorothy Roberts examines how the myth of race as a biological concept—revived by purportedly cutting-edge science, race-specific drugs, genetic testing, and DNA databases—continues to undermine a just society and promote inequality in a supposedly “post-racial” era. Named one of the ten best black nonfiction books 2011 by AFRO.com, Fatal Invention offers a timely and “provocative analysis” (Nature) of race, science, and politics that “is consistently lucid . . . alarming but not alarmist, controversial but evidential, impassioned but rational” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
“Everyone concerned about social justice in America should read this powerful book.” —Anthony D. Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union
“A terribly important book on how the ‘fatal invention’ has terrifying effects in the post-genomic, ‘post-racial’ era.” —Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, professor of sociology, Duke University, and author of Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States
“Fatal Invention is a triumph! Race has always been an ill-defined amalgam of medical and cultural bias, thinly overlaid with the trappings of contemporary scientific thought. And no one has peeled back the layers of assumption and deception as lucidly as Dorothy Roberts.” —Harriet A. Washington, author of and Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself
Roberts, a lawyer and sociology professor, examines the development and contemporary consequences of "race as a political system," bringing science, law, commerce, and race ideologies, virtual thickets of controversy, under one canopy. After demonstrating how, historically, "race was literally manufactured by law," and offering an admirably intelligible account of genomic theory, she considers the extent to which the new approaches "tend to merely repackage race as a genetic category rather than replace it." DNA becomes a "marketable commodity," one consequence being that "race soon became the linchpin for turning the vision of tomorrow's personalized medicine into today's profit-making drugs." As she assesses the "new biopolitics of race," she argues that "Race-based medicine gives people a morally acceptable reason to hold onto their belief in intrinsic racial difference." While "pharmacogenomics," "epigenetic," and "allele" are not in most of our conversations, and while the specialized journals Roberts has made germane use of, for support or to controvert, are not most readers' regular stuff, Roberts is consistently lucid. Her book is alarming but not alarmist, controversial but evidential, impassioned but rational.