REVIEW: How to Argue With a Racist by Adam Rutherford

In brief: The stereotypes and myths about race – and how science debunks them.

The good: Eye-opening as to how casual racism occurs.

The not-so-good: A little dry in parts.

Why I chose it: Educating myself about race one book at a time.

Year: 2020

Pages: 207

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Hachette)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, so who better to dispel the myths and stereotypes of race? Race science is a topic that is mentioned by supremacist groups, but it’s not actually a thing. In this book Adam Rutherford dispels many race-based myths, from why people believe Africans can run faster and Jewish people are better with money. Some of these myths are so commonplace, I hadn’t really ever stopped to think about whether they are evidence based or not.

(Spoiler: they’re not).

Genetics is a complex subject, so Rutherford has to take some time to explain the history and where the science is today. Ultimately we don’t know everything, but we know much more to know that some of the original ‘race science’ studies are very flawed and today, disproven. He discusses the flaws of taking genetic tests to discover your ancestry, how racial purity is a myth and why stereotypes that certain races have certain characteristics are completely flawed. The facts are told in a clear fashion. Rutherford has the science, the data and the statistics to back it up too. So if you were going to argue with a racist, this book has a very useful armamentarium to assist you.

Sometimes I found the book a little dry to read and I wished that specific studies had been used to illustrate a point rather than collating the information into an overall summary. More examples would have been useful to cement the ideas into my brain. Other parts were fascinating (such as the section on athletic ability), and led me to reflect on my own use of stereotypes. I enjoyed the scientific basis of this book which combined my own interests with my continuing education.

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