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What Is "Your" Race?
The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans
Kenneth Prewitt

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"Race may be socially constructed, but alleles are not. The question is not if biology matters, but how does it--and will it--matter? How will biology be called upon to define or confine us in the twenty-first century? Kenneth Prewitt forcefully urges caution in the recuperation of biology, especially when biology is called upon to justify genomic medicine's uncontested adoption of a census taxonomy that is itself based on eighteenth-century pseudoscience. He also effectively deconstructs the pretense by census takers that this taxonomy itself is firmly anchored in science. In one of the most original aspects of this important new book, Prewitt shows in fine historical detail that 'social science and social policy share a common starting point'--ultimately, in American slavery and Jim Crow racial relations. Prewitt's analysis, even when I disagree with him, is timely, thoughtful, eloquent, and learned, and we would all do well to heed his warnings."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

"This is the best book ever written about the federal census of the United States."--David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley

"This is an important and passionately written book. Prewitt traces the historical origins of what he calls the 'statistical races,' arguing that race and ethnicity questions on federal censuses and surveys should ultimately be dropped. His policy recommendations are provocative and well explicated and deserve wide consideration. As a former census director, his proposal carries weight."--Margo Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

"Few people are better placed than Prewitt to comment on the role of racial classification in U.S. policy. As both a scholar and public servant, he brings a unique insider perspective to the 'sausage making' of race-based data. Although lots of scholars and bureaucrats grumble about our existing race categories, no one else has put together a call for change that is as detailed, extensive, and historically researched."--Ann Morning, author of The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference

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File created: 6/28/2016

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