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Science in Black and White Featured Review

Alondra Oubre
392 pages

Science in Black and White
Alondra Oubré

Today, racial science that denigrates blacks needs to be forcefully challenged,
lest it continue to fester and legitimize anti-black racial bias throughout society.
Science in Black and White is a detailed but reader-friendly rebuttal to claims that
blacks—African Americans and other people of African descent—are innately
inferior to whites, Asians, and other racial groups. Most recent books discrediting
racial science generalize about its abuses and misguided ideologies that harm
diverse ethnic groups. It is rare for an antiracist book in this genre to zoom in
specifically on anti-black racial science rather than address the field with one
broad stroke. It is even rarer for a publication to streamline complex scientific
data on this topic to make it accessible to diverse audiences. More than ever, the
public now needs to be well informed about studies used to fuel notions of racial
superiority and inferiority. More importantly, the masses deserve to be kept
abreast of compelling scientific counter-evidence that firmly refutes anti-black
racial science.

Science in Black and White reinterprets racial disparities, especially the
black/white divide in social outcomes, through the lens of nature versus nurture—
biology versus environment—in shaping human social behavior. It vividly
describes how some researchers have distorted or misinterpreted findings on
certain biological traits that vary across racial groups, or genetic ancestries. Race
is not a scientifically valid category for humans because all populations in our
species are genetically too close to divide into separate biological races. Yet,
racial bias still exists. Therefore, this book focuses on scientific data that refutes
explosive allegations that blacks, when compared to other races, are more prone
to poor parenting, academic failure, violent crime, and various other disruptive
social behaviors. It highlights concrete and often less known research findings
that demonstrate that social discrepancies between blacks and whites stem from
multiple, intertwined environmental forces.

Science in Black and White does not shy away from biology when analyzing the
origins of racial inequalities. Taking a page from emerging studies on ethnic
inequalities in health, it explores how non-DNA biological processes, notably
epigenetics and developmental plasticity, may contribute to overall racial and
ethnic differences in social behaviors. Epigenetics and plasticity (including the
brain’s softwring) represent an essential part of nature in the nature-nurture
equation. However, they are both heavily influenced by widely ranging
environmental conditions, including poverty, poor nutrition, childhood physical
punishment, pollution, and incarcerated caregivers. Epigenetics and plasticity
can either favorably or unfavorably alter developmental, or acquired, traits, which
in turn can affect a person throughout the lifespan. These traits may first manifest
at a very young age, possibly setting the stage for increased risk for chronic diseases
and detrimental life circumstances later in life.

Recent discoveries reveal that the biology that most impacts social behaviors is
not fixed and static. In short, it is not genetic. Instead, it is dynamic and
responsive to environmental clues, in keeping with the properties of epigenetics
and plasticity. This revamped view of nature strengthens the antiracist, pro-
nurture position against race-based genetic determinism. It debunks the idea that
supposedly race-based inborn tendencies play a role in the black/white divide in
societal achievement.

Science in Black and White sheds a fresh light on how both nature and
nurture—innovative concepts of biology combined with expanding constructs of
environment—affect racial disparities in life outcomes. The potentially practical
applications of this knowledge for enhancing health, family stability, educational
attainment, and economic security in diverse racial and ethnic groups are
immense. They eventually could pave the way for productive societal
transformation to substantially improve the lives of underserved and marginalized
populations, including black communities worldwide, that have faced decades, if
not centuries, of physical and psychosocial adversity.

For more information, visit www.scienceinblackandwhite.com

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