Campus Reform | Anthropologists say this common practice in their own field is racist

Anthropologists say this common practice in their own field is racist

Two professors used “critical race theory” to determine whether ancestry estimation based on bone structure is inherently racist.

Though they refer to their credentials as forensic anthropologists as a source of authority, the professors also believe that “forensic anthropologists are cogs in the wheel of the race state.”

Two professors used “critical race theory” to determine whether ancestry estimation based on bone structure is inherently racist.

Recent literature from Arizona State University, Michigan State University, the University of Florida, and other institutions recognize that using cranium shapes to make conjectures about a skeleton’s ancestry is an acceptable methodology when combined with other techniques.

However, in an article published by the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, professors Elizabeth DiGangi of Binghamton University and Jonathan Bethard of the University of South Florida assert that “forensic anthropologists have not fully considered the racist context of the criminal justice system in the United States related to the treatment of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.”

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DiGangi and Bethard use “critical race theory” to “interrogate the approaches utilized to estimate ancestry.” They conclude that “the practice of ancestry estimation contributes to white supremacy.”

The professors say that “forensic anthropologists are cogs in the wheel of the race state.” However, later in the article, they justify their arguments by referring to their “status as scientists with advanced degrees and board certification in forensic anthropology.”

“The main point is not whether or not we are consciously or purposefully perpetuating the biological race concept,” write the professors, “or whether ancestry estimation ‘works,’ or whether researchers have created more sophisticated ways to demonstrate that it works — the point here is that by providing an ancestry estimate grounded in traits of the skull, we are reinforcing law enforcement and the public's belief in the concept of biological race.”

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“We anticipate that this discussion may displease some readers and/or make them uncomfortable,” concludes the paper. “The irony is that this reluctance and discomfort are part and parcel of the insidious nature of structural racism, as discussed earlier. Our white privilege allows us to not see it unless it affects us directly and therefore we deny or downplay its existence and/or significance, even though it is hiding in plain sight.”

National Association of Scholars Director of Research David Randall told Campus Reform that “forensic anthropology is the actual proof that anthropometrics works, because it has a remarkably good track record at figuring out who exactly it was that the mob whacked and dumped into a barrel of acid.” 

Randall added that the discipline is “essential for police work.”

Therefore, Randall explained that “the crazed ideology is particularly cruel here — they're trying to prevent giving names to the dead. For an ideology that cares so much about erasure, they're remarkably callous about erasing the actual dead.”

Campus Reform reached out to DiGangi and Bethard for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft