THE end of the second world war was meant to have spelled the death of race science. Until the 1930s, it had been relatively acceptable for biologists and anthropologists to believe in innate differences between races. Many assumed that certain groups were superior to others. It was only after the war and the Holocaust that the world finally turned its back on this dangerous field of research.
People thought about race differently following the war. Anthropologists showed that most of what we think of as racial difference is in fact cultural and linguistic difference. Geneticists, starting with Richard Lewontin in 1972, have shown that more than 90 per cent of the genetic variation we see between humans lies within the racial categories we use. Being of the same race doesn’t necessarily make two people more genetically similar to each other than either of them would be to someone of another race. Race is today described as a social construct, its study confined to the social sciences so we can understand the effects of historical and modern-day discrimination.