54 J. Legal Educ. 365 (2004)
What We Teach When We Teach about Race: The Problem of Law and Pseudo-Economics; Ramirez, Steven A.

handle is hein.journals/jled54 and id is 375 raw text is: What We Teach When We Teach
About Race: The Problem of Law and
Steven A. Ramirez
The pseudo-science of race appears recently to have suffered some fatal
blows. For example, in 2003 PBS broadcast a three-part documentary, Race:
The Power of an Illusion, that debunked virtually all elements of racial mythol-
ogy. It demonstrated that race has no genetic or biological basis; that gross
morphological features which traditionally have defined races (like skin color)
are determined by insignificant and superficial genetic alleles with no link to
any characteristics that matter, such as intelligence, musical talent, or athletic
ability; and that race has been socially and legally constructed, despite the lack
of any scientific basis for dividing humanity into any set of racial baskets with
any generalized genetic meaning.' Although PBS doesn't have the audience
numbers of CNN or Fox News, the truth is out and spreading beyond aca-
demic journals and into the public's consciousness. Today it is generally
accepted science that race cannot be genetically defined and that there is
virtually zero genetic significance to skin color or other racial markers.2
Indeed, some have said that people who believe in race as anything other than
a social construct might as well believe in the Easter bunny or think that the
sun revolves around the earth.' Unfortunately, the law school curriculum
Steven A. Ramirez is a professor of law at Washburn University and director of the Washburn
Business and Transactional Law Center.
This paper benefited from valuable insights from Alex Glashausser, Ali Khan, and William
Rich. It also benefited from a presentation at a faculty workshop at my alma mater, Saint Louis
University School of Law.
1. Race: The Power of an Illusion (PBS television broadcasts Apr. 24, May 1, 8, 2003). There is a
companion Web site at <http://w-w.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm>.
2. Recently leading professional societies in physical anthropology and anthropology have
released statements debunking the idea that there is any scientific basis to race and emphasiz-
ing its social construction. See Am. Anthropological Ass'n, Statement on Race (May 17,
1998), available at <http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm>; Am. Ass'n of Physical An-
thropologists, Statement on Biological Aspects of Race, 101 Am. J. Phys. Anthropology 569
(1996), available at <http://www.physanth.org/positions/race.html>. For a recent analysis
of evidence from genetics, archeology, and linguistics, showing that race is socially con-
structed, see Steve Olson, Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our
Genes (Boston, 2002). For a comprehensive analysis of the law's role in the social construc-
tion of race, see Ian Haney L6pez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York,
3. See Steven A. Ramirez, A General Theory of Cultural Diversity, 7 Mich. J. Race & L. 33, 40
n.35, 45 n.72 (2001) (citing such statements).
Journal of Legal Education, Volume 54, Number 3 (September 2004)

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