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From reason to practice in bioethicsAn anthology dedicated to the works of John Harris$
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John Coggon, Sarah Chan, Soren Holme, and Thomasine Kushner

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096235

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096235.001.0001

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Could we reduce racism with one easy dip?

Could we reduce racism with one easy dip?

What a thought experiment about race-colour change makes us see

(p.170) 16 Could we reduce racism with one easy dip?
From reason to practice in bioethics

Margaret P. Battin

Manchester University Press

Consider a simple thought-experiment: What if it were possible, say by dipping into a skin dye bath or using special pigmentation-altering lights in a converted tanning bed, to change one’s skin colour temporarily and reversibly? You can be “Shirley Temple” white this week, “Louis Armstrong” black next week, “Genghis Khan” or “Madame Butterfly” Asian the week after that. Temporary skin colour change could be used to combat racism in hiring, education, admission to special societies; to facilitate social interaction in teaching or travel; or to pursue aesthetic and self-identity interests. But would race-colour change be deceptive or morally problematic? At issue is whether a person is somehow “really” a specific colour and if so, whether it would violate “race integrity” (if there is such a thing) to change it. Is skin colour a basic constituent of personal identity? The underlying theoretical race ontology issues involve racial skepticism, racial constructionism, and population naturalism, and whether deracialised interaction among individuals and peoples of the world might be possible.

Keywords:   Race, Racism, Thought experiment, Race colour change, Prejudice, racial, Self-identity, Race ontology, Racial essentialism, Racial constructionism, Population naturalism

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