Book review: How to Argue with a Racist

To be honest, I don’t do a lot of non-fiction, but this one turned up on Twitter feed because Bernadine Evaristo recommended it. Given the current state of the Western Hemisphere right now, I figured I’m going to need a better position than, ‘You’re being a dick – stop it.’

And that’s what Dr Rutherford has attempted to provide: evidence-based, scientifically-proven reasoning through his extensive knowledge of genetics and race history.

He starts with a fairly deep and fairly dry delve into the science of genetics, covering what genetics is and the thinking behind it, and how are genetic makeup is spread across the world by migrations that occurred thousands of years ago. Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, so I did find a lot it quite … deep, but the important aspect isn’t so much the science, as the history of migration, because this, coupled with environmental adaption, is why this whole race thing is really an artificial construct that has been co-opted by dodgy scientists and white supremacists to justify beliefs that are little more than superstition.

But once you get past the hard stuff (and it is worth spending time on) then you’re into the actual arguments whereRutherford masterfully demolishes one race-based myth after another:

  • Black men are genetically programmed to be better at sprinting
  • except Ethiopians who are genetically programmed to better at long-distance.
  • Black people have denser bones which is why the don’t swim.
  • Black men are disproportionately well-endowed (no one’s going to thank him for arguing away that one).
  • Black people aren’t so hot on the brain stuff.
  • Jews are great with money
  • Jews are stingy.

The reasons for any perceived differences, as Rutherford points out, are often do with opportunities, systemic racism, and something a bloke told you in a pub toilet.

So, will this book help you win an argument with a racist? I think that depends on the racist. It’s my own belief that many people who are racist actually want to be racist; the false arguments to support their position come along after they’ve made that choice. And that’s kind of the problem: racism is a choice, so there’s not really any point trying to argue these people away from it. In fact, Rutherford includes a great quote:

You cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into.


Folk don’t ‘reason’ themselves into racism; it’s something they want to believe in.

But this isn’t the case for everyone. When you take away peer pressure, or parental influence, or simply throw in a good book, like this one, stuffed to the gunnels with facts, historical and scientific references, and reasoned arguments then change becomes a lot easier.

Ten out of ten.

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