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Deflating ‘Race’


‘Race’ has long searched for a stable, suitable idea, with no consensus on a master meaning in sight. What I call deflationary pluralism about the existence of race recognizes that various meanings may be true as far as they go but avoids murky disputes over whether there are races in some sense. Once we have rejected the notion that racial essences yield innate cognitive differences, there is little point to arguing over the race idea. In its place, I propose the idea of socioancestry, which jettisons racial thinking yet recognizes the social dynamics of color. For example, Black Americans, many of whom have traceable non-African ancestry, constitute an Africa-identified, socioancestrally black subgroup. ‘Race’ talk is not needed to sustain legitimate color-conscious approaches to social identity and social justice. Long-standing fixation on the race idea has obscured the simple truth that visible continental ancestry is the root of the social reality of color consciousness.

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