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Book Review Article: “Our Task is to Overcome Racism in a World in which Racial Differences Exist.”

Julien Delhez


According to philosopher Michael O. Hardimon, human races do exist. He distinguishes four “race” concepts: the racialist one, which implies essentialism, hierarchy, and the idea of differences in important traits such as intelligence; the minimalist one, which merely refers to races as populations characterized by common physical features, biological relatedness, and common origin; the populationist one, which is roughly the minimalist one plus the data from population genetics; and the concept of “socialrace”, that is, a group which is considered to be a racialist race. Michael O. Hardimon thinks that only the first concept should be rejected. As for the possibility of mental differences between the races, he dismisses it and accuses those who consider these differences to exist of being “scientific racists” (p. 26). The author demonstrates in a convincing manner that the minimalist and the populationist concepts are compatible with current data from population genetics, and he demonstrates that a biological concept of race is perfectly consistent with an antiracist stance. In his chapter on “socialrace”, he endorses the idea of “institutional racism”, which implies that all the differences in socio-economic outcomes between the races are the result of a hidden oppressive institution. One may agree with the author on the necessity to “overcome racism in a world in which racial differences exist”, without necessarily agreeing with him on what “racial differences” really are, and without necessarily endorsing his idea of “institutional racism”, which is unlikely to foster mutual understanding and reduce the risk of racial conflicts.

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