Individuals Versus Group? The Moral Conundrum of Blurred Racial Boundaries

23 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008

See all articles by Jennifer L. Hochschild

Jennifer L. Hochschild

Harvard University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: August 26, 2008

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Hochschild, Jennifer L., Individuals Versus Group? The Moral Conundrum of Blurred Racial Boundaries (August 26, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1259168 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1259168

Jennifer L. Hochschild (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0181 (Phone)
617-495-0438 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
91
Abstract Views
1,025
rank
296,341
PlumX Metrics