"Race," Science, & Political Correctness

Ron Kephart (rkephart@osprey.unf.edu)
25 Nov 1996 18:55:31 GMT

Bob Whitaker <bwhit@conterra.com> wrote:

> Anybody your age who doesn't know what Political Correctness is
> is beyond redemption. Maybe you have so totally accepted it you
> don't know what it is. I doubt you've ever heard anything else.

The rejection of 18th century taxonomies of humans "races" has nothing
to do with "political correctness." It is a result of the refinement
of our knowledge about how life forms, human and otherwise, change thru
time and also vary over geographical space. This is what science is
supposed to do for us: help us refine our analytic models of the

For the record, the phrase "political correctness" is tossed around
mostly by right-wingers who use it defelect attention away from the
discussion of important issues, such as "race", ethnicity, gender,
sexual preference, and the like. Anything that upsets their world
view is labeled "politically correct." This is very unfortunate,
because it gets in the way of our work, part of which is to educate
people about these issues from an anthropological perspective.

It seems too bad that there appear to be so many people out there
whose lives only have meaning when they are defined in terms of
"us (whites)" versus "them (blacks, etc.)". Well, unfortunately for
all of you, these categories, while socially and culturally "real" and
important, are not biologically "real". This is what science has
taught us over the last century or so. It's time to get over it, and
move on to the really important task, which is understanding why and
how these sociocultural categories are so important to us, anyway,
and then helping our society figure out what to do about it.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida