Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America [Eisenberg Review]

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America [Eisenberg Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 36, Issue 5 (May 2013)
pages 923-925
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2012.748214

Martin Eisenberg
Department of Urban Studies
Queens College, City University of New York

Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver and Tract Burch. Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 2012. xii + 260 pp.

In this book. Hochschild, Weaver and Burch contend that the USA is on the cusp of a democratic transformation of its racial order On the basis of survey data and demographic analyses, they are struck by the increasing heterogeneity and interactions across differences that have developed over the last two decades. Whether a democratic transformation occurs depends upon new policies that make it possible to overcome the obstacles that arc part of the old racial order. There are no certainties, but the authors arc optimistic that major “ethno-racial” boundaries will continue to blur in the near future.

The authors believe that the social forces generating the possibility of change in the racial order are immigration, multiraiialism, genomics, and the current, equalitarian cohort of young adults, all interacting with one another, and underlain by demographic and legal changes. Immigration and multiracialism contribute to blurring the traditional categories of racial difference. Nearly 50 million Latino, Caribbean Asian and African immigrants have settled in the USA since 1970. Some immigrant groups bring with them their own racial categories, and the children of some of these groups intermarry and have children at relatively high rates with whites. The authors see multiracialism as a political movement, and as a public identity. Some Americans have succeeded in asserting the legal right to identify as ‘multiracial’, not just as a single race on the US Census and other official documents. Also, multiracialism generates variations in how people identify in different situations. And, surveys show that young adults possess more democratic attitudes and interact across difference with more frequency, in ways less governed by stereotypes, and without the conflicts of the past in their collective memories.

According to the authors, genomics is the branch of genetics that studies organisms in terms of full DNA sequences. Its goal is mainly medical to discover genes and genomic interactions that cause disease and to develop effective medications. Scientists have confirmed that all human beings share 99.9% of their genetic makeup: that about 94%. of all physical variation lies within the ‘so-called’ racial groups; and that there is much overlapping of genes and phenotypes in neighbouring populations. Yet, despite the overlapping and blurring of boundaries around groups, some concepts like race or ethnicity or bio-geographic ancestry remain useful for genomic purposes to designate clusters of genes. Genomic science answers the question, ‘what is race?’ ambiguously. It thoroughly undermines the older conception of a few biologically distinct and internally homogeneous races. But it also undermines the claim that race, defined genetically, is merely arbitrary. Genomically, the authors write, races are simultaneously real, arbitrary, heterogeneous, and blurred, so it is not surprising that individual classifications are intricate and confused. And, it will continue that way until it becomes possible lo avoid racial classifications by testing for alleles and developing treatments for the genetic components of diseases among individuals. Until those procedures are developed, the authors predict continued contentiousness among biological scientists on how to conceptualize race…

Read or purchase the review here.

Tags: , , , ,