The now popular notion that “race does not exist” or that “race is a social construct” has grown greatly in use in books in recent decades, according to Google’s Ngram of American books published in English from 1800 to 2019. (I don’t know what context “race does not exist” was used in the 1840s to 1860s in America.)
The recent upsurges appear to have started in the later 1980s, the dawning of academic political correctness. I suspect the big surge in use of “race does not exist” in the late 1990s to 2002 was related to the Human Genome Project. Genomics entrepreneur Craig Venter’s speech in the White House Rose Garden ceremony about how there are no genetic differences between races has proven wildly influential. For a lot of people online, that appears to be the last time they ever thought about the relationship between genetics and race.
The problem is that nowadays, big institutions like the American Heart Association take this salesman’s dubious sales pitch as gospel, one that we must do all we can to prevent doubts about.
For example, the AHA just updated its heart attack risk calculator to use some new scientific findings about kidney function and the like, which hopefully will make the new algorithm more accurate overall than the 2013 model. But the AHA decided to stop asking about the patient’s race, not for scientific reasons, but because they decided “a priori” that they didn’t want to “reify” the biological existence of race.
The AHA has not published how much worse this decision makes the accuracy of its calculator vs. what it could have been if race had continued to be used as a factor. But it seems plausible that this decision to not use race as a factor on theological grounds will lead to more blacks dying due to their greater risk of cardiovascular death. But who cares about black lives mattering when the sacredness of the belief that race does not exist can be bolstered?
I’ve been writing about the dangers of the Race Does Not Exist creed for decades. I’m sure it sounded to many awfully esoteric. The problem, I noted, is that many people aren’t smart enough to be cunning hypocrites. People want to believe. They don’t like being machiavels. If a truth, such as that race does exist biologically, is declared unspeakable, we can bump along for a while being hypocritical. But eventually the truth becomes inconceivable.
And then people die.