In the premiere of Dope Labs’ newest season, podcasting’s rising talent and Duke University graduates, Dr. Titi Shodiya and Dr. Zakiya Whatley are joined by special guest, Angela Saini, author of Race Science and award-winning British science journalist. The trio dive into the complicated layers of racism that have permeated the science community, explain how the failures in science affect policy and law, and contextualize what that means for today’s heightened political climate – especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter resurgence. The co-hosts also explain how race is a social construct and attempt to unearth why the human obsession with groupings of artificial categories still exists.
WHEN: Episode premieres Thursday, June 25, and airs weekly, EXCLUSIVELY on Spotify.
On why we still harbor archaic racial categories (hint: political value):
- Angela: We have laid enormous sets of meaning on top of these very (what will always be) arbitrary categories and given them a power that they never had to begin with. So the way those categories were defined in the first place were very much informed by the politics of the time by slavery, by colonialism, by this belief in European superiority…It doesn’t take a genius to then unpick the biology and figure out that it’s nonsense but…there are still people who would like to be able to make the case that the inequality that we see in society is natural that it’s not because of historical factors – that it’s there because it was always there, and it always will be there.
On Sir Francis Galton coining eugenics and its dangerous implications:
- Angela: Eugenics is… the technology that comes out of race science… Francis Galton who was a cousin of Charles Darwin…coined the term eugenics and came up with this principle that people superior people (so the smartest and most beautiful) should be allowed to breed more and those who are inferior should be discouraged from breeding and if we do that then we can improve the stock of in his case of British race… It was completely mainstream on the right on the left. If anything, socialists were more excited about it than anyone – Virginia Woolf…you know our big intellectual progressive heroes – many of them were eugenicists and very firmly believed in this idea and were behind it.
On America’s dark history influencing Hitler through science:
- Zakiya: Those efforts weren’t only in Britain they were quickly adopted by scientists in the United States. Not just ideas, but action.
- Titi: When we talk about eugenics, I think the first things that pop into folks’ mind are Hitler, the Nazi party, the Holocaust. But Hitler actually took his cue from American eugenics.
- Angela: Sterilization in the US was adopted as policy in many states and they then became an inspiration for Adolf Hitler.
Why BIPOC folks are few and far between in the science community:
- Angela: You know, it comes down to what are you willing to excuse. When you’re not the victim of somebody else’s hatred then it’s quite easy actually to excuse that kind of behavior than when you are the victim. It’s impossible and I think that’s the problem. Science looks the way it does because all the people that can excuse that kind of behavior stay. And all the people who can’t, leave. That’s why science looks the way it does.
On how science influences politics:
- Zakiya: Sometimes when people talked about this stuff they say, “You’re anti-science” or you don’t love science like they do. And really you just want science to be better.
- Titi: Right, and the thing is, is that science does not exist in a vacuum. It informs policy and it informs our politics so if something is being pushed through the scientific community, it will eventually show up in various ways in our laws and that’s a huge impact.
- Zakiya: Yeah we’ve seen it happen before so we really have a duty now to say “this is where I draw the line.” This is where we get inequitable health policies, right? And I think if there’s anything I want folks to take away from this is, I want you to think… if I know that race has no biological ground to stand on, then racism is for what? For what?
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