Race: The power of an illusion, Ep 1&2

The videos we watched gave an overview of how race might have been an American concept used to justify the ill treatment of an entire group of people without real, empirical scientific basis. Today, when the genes of those within different ‘races’ are compared, there seems to be no particular factor that stands out as ‘race’ indicative and variations are abound within races and between them. However, established perceptions are harder to disprove than scientific assumptions.

As an international student at UofR, every piece of American history is new to me. Yet, the overarching influence that America has over the rest of the world even before globalization, was especially unexpected. To think that it would take one (influential) man justifying the injustice against a group by actively believing in an inherent fault would propagate so widely, such that it skewed with what the general perception used to be. Of course, this is an obvious parallel to the Nazi propaganda, and perhaps scarier; Germany needed a scapegoat during the great recession and it was immediately met with global scorn, but what was the American excuse?

The history lesson from the video told me one thing: cultural groups have always had to change to accommodate the American lifestyle, but eventually a social construct will get in the way of morality. The news today seems to reflect a lot of the racial segregation ideals preached by Jackson, using race (and somehow going back to when religion was a segregation factor) to justify the lack of morality and humanity.

Perhaps, at the foundation of the race argument was the supposed agreement of the scientific community. While I understand personal biases shaping opinions and skewing results on American soil, it is more surprising that the data seemed to influence every consequent finding in other countries. But I also find it hard to argue against these publications; they are indubitably false, but without the knowledge of human intelligence that we have now, without the agreed standard of validity and without the possibility of personal bias, what reason would exist to doubt any of your own results? Did this assumption lead the way for scientific discoveries that now tell us that genetic variation is not dependent or causative of ‘race’?

Using biology as an excuse to establish social hierarchy and further political and social goals was and remains the major fault. The population does not doubt the scientific stamp but they are also very resistant to change, so maybe the promise of change is only valid with a generation that has never been exposed to the previous hostilities.

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2 thoughts on “Race: The power of an illusion, Ep 1&2

  1. I think it is really interesting to consider the possibility that change can only occur “with a generation that has never been exposed to the previous hostilities.” Do you think it is possible that if we bring important historical knowledge and racial/ethnic theories to a more public platform that is is possible to educate the general public and even change the beliefs of people who have been prejudiced since their childhood? I know that is a really loaded question and would probably generate a ton of discussion; I just wanted to throw that idea out there because I found your post very intriguing and well thought out.

    1. I think it is idealistic to think it would work. I think bringing forward the discussion we are having in class to someone who is closed off to such ideas in the first place will do very little to change their minds. I think the best we can hope for is public politeness and adherence to constitutional rights.

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