Dorothy Roberts Quotes
“The theme of willful self-creation is especially strong in the writings of Black women.80 The fiction of authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker revolves around Black female characters who learn to invent themselves after breaking out of the confines of racist and sexist expectations. Black women’s autobiographical accounts also describe the process of self-creation, exemplified by Patricia Williams’s statement, “I am brown by my own invention.… One day I will give birth to myself, lonely but possessed.”81”
“The very first U.S. census began on August 2, 1790, a year after the inauguration of President George Washington. Census takers in 1790 counted the number of persons in each household according to the following categories: free white males sixteen years and older, free white males under sixteen years, free white females, all other free persons, and slaves. Since then, every U.S. census has sorted people by race—but the racial groupings have changed twenty-four times over the last two hundred years. In the second census, taken in 1800, Indians were specified as a separate category of free persons. Chinese were added to the 1870 census. In 1920, race had become even more complicated. That census included ten racial categories: white, black, mulatto, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hindu, Korean, and other. By the end of the twentieth century, the racial groupings were consolidated into five main choices: American Indian or Alaska native, Asian, black or African American, native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and white.”
“What if I were born in Brazil? Brazilian society recognizes an even wider range of identities for people who are neither white (branco) nor black (preto). In the 1950s, anthropologist Harry Hutchinson found eight in-between categories in the community of Reconcavo, located in northeastern Brazil, ranging from Cabo verde (“lighter than the preto but still quite dark, but with straight hair, thin lips, and narrow, straight nose”) to Moreno (“light skin with straight hair, but not viewed as white”).54 I probably would have been classified as pardo, designating mulattoes who are the children of the union of pretos and brancos. Of course, my genetic makeup remains the same no matter where I was born. But my race, along with all the privileges and disadvantages that go with it, differs depending on which country I am born in or travel to, because race is a political category that is defined according to invented rules.”
“Neglect is usually better classified as child maltreatment defined by poverty rather than maltreatment caused by poverty. The main reason child protection services deal primarily with poor families is because of the way child maltreatment is defined. The child welfare system is designed to detect and punish neglect on the part of poor parents and to ignore most middle-class and wealthy parents’ failings. Although the meaning of child maltreatment shifted from a social to a medical model, it retained its focus on poor families. The system continues to concentrate on the effects of childhood poverty, but it treats the damage as a symptom of parental rather than societal deficits.”
“The Genetics of Asthma lab is one of countless research projects at universities and biotech firms around the country hunting for the genes that are responsible for health disparities in America. They are supplementing a large body of published studies that claim to show that racial gaps in disease prevalence or mortality are caused by genetic differences. In addition to asthma, disparities in infant mortality, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension have all been attributed in the scientific literature to genetic vulnerability that varies according to race. Most of these studies never even examined the genotypes of research subjects, as Burchard’s lab does; they just infer a genetic source of racial differences when they fail to find another explanation. As interest in health disparities converges with the genomic science of race, a new brand of racial stereotyping is gaining hold in biomedical research.”
“The article ended by downplaying “disparate access to medical care or other environmental factors,” arguing that “our data suggest that the proposed genetic component to preterm birth may be a greater etiological contributor than previously recognized”—despite presenting no genetic data whatsoever!22”
“In this study and others like it, guesswork about a peculiar black predisposition toward unhealthy births imports an old notion about sickle cell disease “afflicting the black race.”25 Whenever I give a talk on this topic, there is inevitably someone in the audience who invokes the mantra that sickle cell anemia is a black genetic disease and therefore proves that race is a genetic category. This misconception was first popularized in the early twentieth century by hematology experts who believed the capacity to develop sickled cells was uniquely inherent in “Negro blood.”26 Stereotypes about black resistance to malaria and susceptibility to sickle cell justified sending black workers to malaria-infested regions in the first part of the century and later led to discriminatory government, employer, and insurance-testing programs in the 1970s.27 The error is easily exposed by looking at two world maps, one highlighting the regions around the globe where malaria is prevalent, the other highlighting areas where sickle cell disease is present. The maps mirror each other perfectly. By comparing them, it is plain to see that malaria and sickle cell aren’t restricted to Africa and that much of Africa is unaffected. High frequencies of the trait also occur in parts of Europe, Oceania, India, and the Middle East, all places where there is malaria. In fact, people in the town of Orchomenos in central Greece have double the rate of sickle cell disease reported among African Americans.28 If frequency of the sickle cell gene determined racial boundaries, it certainly would not prove there is a black race. Instead, as Jared Diamond pointed out in the November 1994 issue of Discover , if we grouped together people by the presence or absence of the sickle cell gene, “we’d place Yemenites, Greeks, New Guineans, Thai, and Dinkas in one ‘race,’ Norwegians and several black African peoples in another.”29 It would be more accurate to call the groups with the sickle cell gene the “antimosquito race.” Of course, that would be a silly way of grouping people, except for studying the sickle cell gene. But “black race” is an equally silly way of grouping people for identifying genetic contributions to disease.”
- Date of birth: March 08, 1956
- Born: in Chicago, Illinois, The United States.
- Description: Dorothy Roberts is a scholar, professor, author and social justice advocate, and currently the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She has published a range of groundbreaking articles and books analyzing issues of law, race, gender, health, class and social inequality, including Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (1997), Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (2002) and, most recently Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2012).