Four ways Angela Saini made me think about racial prejudices in science
Nila Sinead Sandhu, Journalism Undergraduate, University of Roehampton
At this year's Wimbledon BookFest, in the beautiful William Morris tent, Angela Saini discussed eugenics, politics and injustices: in relation to her new book Superior: The Return of Race Science, in a thought-provoking conversation with Samira Ahmed.
cleverly localised the issue of race science by bringing the audience's attention to how it is used on a daily basis. She notes that individuals must identify themselves by their race on forms such as used by doctors and census'. This was merely one way in which Saini made the issue relatable and understandable, all whilst linking self-identification to the idea that race itself is a social construct.
Not only did Saini identify the importance of race science and its relevance in modern society, but she also discusses her findings on why science has taken this stance. She explains how she explored the ways science has been slow to recognise and accept social change; she uses the delay in the scientific acknowledgement of women as citizens as an example. Saini surmises that perhaps their own bias is often mistaken as fact, which she assures is problematic, as 'good science' needs 'humility.'
Whilst the conversation mostly centered around Saini's academic research, she touched on the issues which were pertinent to her. She spoke of her childhood in South East London and the emergence of the BNP (British National Party) at the time. But she also spoke of a time where racism was at a low, only for it years later to show its head once again — expressing that the return of racial prejudice and science is rife in this socio-political climate.
When asked in the closing Q&A if the civil services eradication of self-identification and introduction of 'blind interviews' should be replicated in the public sector, Saini argued that unfortunately without identification we cannot see where discrimination is taking place and therefore would not be a viable solution to removing race science from daily life.
The conversation was enlightened to the fact that we are living in a world where biology is still wrapped up with politics. Meaning investigations and research into race science, such as Angela Saini's Superior are essential to extending our understanding.