This is the best book I have read covering a wide range of arguments concerning race. Malik reveals deep flaws in the arguments of both the race deniers and the race warriers. Rather than dismiss the concept out of hand he shows what the limits of its applicability should be. There are differences, for example, in the responsiveness of different human groups to different medicines. Even here, however he warns that these differences are not quite what they are usually thought to be. Thus sickle cell anaemia is not a black problem since the majority of blacks do not suffer from it. Furthermore some whites have the problem. Malik piles up a lot of detail on such issues and shows that only careful analysis which is not driven by dogmatic concepts of race (for or against). The middle section of the book details the changing approaches to race since the Englightenment and should convince anyone who think that goodies and badies can be lined up by their response to simple questions that things are far more complicated than they imagine. Finally in the last part of the book Malik shows who simplistic anti-racism has resulted in policies that reinforce racist views and inter-community problems. The book is well researched and carefully argued. It should be read by every politician an journalist who is in any way concerned with issues of race.
I agree with E L Wisty. Malik wonderfully deconstructs the cultural concept of race and difference and how this way of thinking can be damaging making identity almost a matter of fate even to the point where some people are having genealogical tests done to uncover some lost identity or ancient skeletons being lost to science because of some crazy political correctness about them being handed over to the nearest tribal people. On the scientific side though I feel he is less strong. He spends a lot of time pointing out how the idea of racial difference can have a scientific basis only to then ask the reader to conclude there is no scientific basis for the concept. His conclusion almost seemed a bit of a fudge and left me a bit more confused than when I had started. Ironic but it shows how difficult these things are to discuss. Whatever, I feel this is a valuable contribution to the debate.
I don't have any specialist knowledge of the topic, but this certainly seemed a good overview of some of the debates surrounding race. Malik writes calmly and logically about the relationship between medicine/illness and `race', and seeks to demonstrate that some aspects of `antiracism' and multiculturalism can be seen as allied to, rather than distinct from, racism. Malik concludes with a critique of studies such as `The Bell Curve' which find a correlation between race and intelligence. I would have liked more still on this latter topic in fact. Sometimes I found myself thinking Malik almost *too* reasonable and logical - but I guess that's an error in the right direction.
Malik begins with a discussion of race from a biological point of view. He clearly tends towards the fashionable viewpoint that race is not a valid biological concept, and seems to wish to perpetuate Lewontin's Fallacy. Although Malik demonstrates that there are indeed immense and apparently insurmountable difficulties in defining exactly what 'race' is, I don't feel that his argument that as a result the concept is invalid is conclusive. Just because we are unable to define such a concept rigorously doesn't mean that such categories can't exist at all, even in some fuzzy or naive sense. It feels a little like saying that life does not exist, because we haven't been able to agree upon a rigorous definition of what life is. Life clearly does exist, despite our failure to define it.
Malik progresses onto a discussion of European racism during the empire building and colonial period. One important part of his treatment which I think still has great relevance today, is how Europeans of the time had a tendency to treat black people who took part in the norms of European society as equals. Dress like us, speak like us, behave like us, we treat you exactly like one of us. What people call "racism" is actually more often "culturalism" as it were, and I think that this is very much the case in modern society.
Moving from the past to the present, Malik analyses the anti-racist movements of the modern day, and demonstrates how things have swung to the opposite pole entirely. Whereas 'racist' imperialist Europe allowed other races to become one of them by behaving like them, contemporary politically correct anti-racist movements do exactly the opposite. They do not even permit black people to behave like white people; on the contrary it is about white people telling black people how they must behave and actually confining them within a certain image - and a white person's image at that - of what they should be like. Rem acu tetigisti, Mr Malik!
Essential reading, and an important voice for a third way in the race debate.
This book was really interesting and it left me with a much better understanding of the ways in which we construct ideas about race. There was a lot to take in and I will probably have to read it again to really appreciate the arguments and examine them more thoroughly. Would recommend this to someone who wants to get a better understanding of this debate.