Individuals Versus Group? The Moral Conundrum of Blurred Racial Boundaries
23 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 26, 2008
A classic moral conundrum, especially though not uniquely in liberal polities, is whether a person should choose what is best for him or herself, or whether a person should choose what best advances the interests of the group to which he or she belongs. I explore this conundrum in three related cases - skin color hierarchy among African Americans, multiracialism, and genomics. Each case offers possibilities for blurring, crossing, or even dissolving racial boundaries as they have been understood in the United States for most of the past century. Any such change in a racial boundary might benefit the individual who makes it, and might also diminish the strength or cohesiveness of that person's group, especially if he or she identifies as African American.
The paper provides evidence showing how and why the conundrum could occur in each of the three cases. It concludes by identifying political situations and policy choices that can exacerbate, or soften, the potential dilemma of having to choose between individual or group benefits.
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