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Kenan Malik

Strange Fruit

Race has always been a highly contentious issue. In Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate Kenan Malik argues that it is also a very muddled issue.

Whether race is a meaningful concept at all is a debatable issue, but Malik argues that it may be useful in some circumstances, such as the initial diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. It should not, however, be used to define a person's identity. Such a definition has been at the base of policies of segregation, but it is also being supported by some in the anti-racist movement. What is scary is how eager people seem to accept this, on the basis of very weak correlations in scientific studies, of the campaigning of a few activists and of 'postmodern' arguments which would fall apart if you took them seriously.

This book is a contender for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, but it wouldn't be my choice for the title, as I feel it leaves something to be desired as a science book. An author such as Stephen J Gould would be more likely to try to sort out the muddle, whilst Malik is content just to highlight it. Also, I thought that he missed some opportunities for highlighting the contradictions in thoughts about race. However, I still feel that it is well worth reading as a timely warning of where some current racial policies may be leading.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews