From Publishers Weekly
In this slender multidisciplinary analysis, scientists, novelists, and religious leaders examine the roots of racial prejudice and possible antidotes. Princeton psychology professor Susan T. Fiske pre-sents neuroscience findings that in repeated studies, when white test subjects look at photographs of black people, their amygdalae—the seat of the fear response system in the brain—lights up, suggesting that bias is unconscious and deep-seated. But biology is not destiny, nor is bias ineradicable, as following essays attest. Contributors address how schools, businesses, and police departments can counter an inborn tendency to distrust that which is different. And the book's third section celebrates racial and ethnic diversity as a source of vitality. Rebecca Walker addresses being biracial, and others meditate on raising bicultural and biracial children or being part of an interracial couple. The concluding essay by Archbishop Desmond Tutu relates how the truth and reconciliation process helped heal South Africa's deep racial fissures. While topics are explored too briefly to be of scholarly interest, their brevity will be an advantage to readers looking for a snapshot of contemporary research into and activism around ending racism. (Aug.)
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The bad news about the human species is that our impulse to prejudge others predates our evolution from primates to humans, but the good news is that more recent evolution of the neocortex restrains our less noble impulses. Combining research from neuroscience and psychology, this collection of essays examines the question of whether we are born with biases based on race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation and whether we can learn to control ourselves and come to appreciate our differences. Contributors provide historical perspective on how science has served racism, including eugenics, and looks beyond the individual impulses to the institutional support for discrimination. The collection begins with scientists drawing on brain scans to examine the instinct toward bias and how we can mitigate those instincts and goes on to psychologists exploring the psychological roots of prejudice and highlighting tools to overcome bias without succumbing to the myth of color blindness. In the final section, social scientists ponder how we can learn through changes in cultural beliefs and social circumstances to appreciate diversity. A highly accessible, thought-provoking collection on racial bias. --Vanessa Bush