What a thought experiment about race-colour change makes us see
Margaret P. Battin
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.