Forensic Anthropologists Ask Peers To Stop Using Racial Features To Identify Skeletons

A sect of forensic anthropologists has been arguing that attempting to identify the racial ancestry of a skeleton is based solely on racial stereotypes and are attempting to force their peers to stop doing so.

As reported by The College Fix, forensic anthropologists normally attempt to identify the sec, height, age, and racial ancestry of the human remains, but a small group of these scientists is attempting to remove race entirely from the list.

“We urge all forensic anthropologists to abolish the practice of ancestry estimation,” stated Elizabeth DiGangi of Binghamton University and Jonathan Bethard of the University of South Florida as part of a study done early on this past year. This pair went on to write a letter, back in July, to the editor of the Journal of Forensic Sciences in another attempt to argue their odd case.

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“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; nor have we considered that ancestry estimation might actually hinder identification efforts because of entrenched racial biases,” stated the authors in their study.

As highlighted by the Fix, this study, along with the letter to the editor, was “written following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which caused many academics to reconsider the racial implications of their professions.”

As part of their study, DiGangi and Bethard made the argument that “Ancestry estimation contributes to white supremacy.” The pair went on to state that they make use of Critical Race Theory to “continue to situate and contextualize our challenge to the use of macromorphoscopic (hereafter, morphoscopic) traits, as well as introduce critiques of craniometric and dental morphological analysis in ancestry estimation.”

The pair’s attempts to force other forensic anthropologists to stop the standard method of identifying skeletons by race have been met with quite a bit of skepticism and criticism.

Elizabeth Weiss, a San Jose State anthropologist, stated to the Fix, “If forensic anthropologists abandon determining race, then they are going to be doing victims and their families a big disservice and are basically engaging in a dereliction of their duty.”

“I think it’s this weird phenomena; they want to place emphasis on the social construction of race (and racism), but want to deny the biological concept of race,” she continued. “Nevertheless, they would never support making the argument that one can self-determine race.”

Weiss also stated that it was mainly the standard classification of the human remains as Black, White, or Asian that seemed to be the most controversial to the odd pair.

“So far anthropologists have not been as good at determining the difference between Asians from various regions,” stated Weiss to the Fix.

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