2023 Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Portfolio finalist

Long Division: The Persistence of Race Science

About the Project

After a mass shooter killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in a racially motivated attack in May 2022 — and as it came to light that his white supremacist ideologies were fueled in part by his interpretations of medical, psychological, and genetic research — scientists faced unsettling questions: Was their work serving to prop up false notions of race as a biological category? Was it actually perpetuating racism?

Over six months, Undark journalists dissected that question relentlessly and unflinchingly, probing its many intersections with history, politics, and culture. The resulting series, “Long Division,” explores with depth and rigor a mystery that has haunted science for centuries: Why does race science persist?

Long Division’s painstakingly reported stories cast light on widespread practices in modern genetics that have been called into question by bioethicists; exposed pressure points in academic publishing that have allowed dubious race research to proliferate; examined the ways deeply entrenched ideas about race continue to exert sway in medicine, education, and forensics; and unpacked the complications biologists face in their continuing quest to decipher human difference.

We believe the meticulously reported, edited, and fact-checked Long Division series may not only be among the most impactful projects Undark has undertaken, but among the most penetrating journalistic interrogations of race science by any outlet to date.