Race Ep. 1 and 2- The Stories We Tell

As I reflect on the first two episodes, I can’t help but think about stories- how we construct them, how they shape our societies, and how we remember them.  I suppose at the heart of it, that’s what race is: a story, made up by those in a position of power. Because of that power that they have, that story becomes a fact. I appreciated how they started off by explaining race because especially in America, we know that race exists, but we rarely dissect it.  Debunking the whole biological basis of race was so important because it is still so prevalent today for it to basically just be a story we’ve passed down. Also, there being an essentialist component to race is easier I think. For example, it’s easier to say that black people are just better at sports than to have the conversation about how sports have become the way out of poverty that race built in the first place.  It’s easier to say that black people are a lesser race than acknowledging that you’re enslaving people who are the exact same as you (Thomas Jefferson). These stories that have been made up to soothe the cognitive dissonance and fuel the greed of powerful white men is the very basis of this nation.


Furthermore, how race became a story, and then, in turn, became science astounds me.  With that point, I like how the film noted that it was American scientists who inspired the Holocaust.  This is why I always say that words are never just words because stories take over and spin out of control.  With this, I’m wondering about the free speech debate that seems to be so prevalent on college campuses. I understand that with dialogue comes understanding and progress, but I’m really struggling with the idea that all ideas are equal and worthy of a platform.  For example, I don’t think that white supremacists should be given positions on the staff of major news outlets. I don’t think that the president of the United States should equally condemn counter protesters and white supremacists/nazis. I think that for true dialogue to exist, there should be some sort of foundational agreement/understanding.  Both parties should respect and agree on the subject’s right to basic existence. White supremacists do not agree that black people and white people are on equal playing fields and are equally deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, what is the line? As we’ve learned from these episodes, words aren’t just words, they turn into stories that privilege some over others and leave us with the unjust, and unequal society that we find ourselves within today.

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One thought on “Race Ep. 1 and 2- The Stories We Tell

  1. I also was really shocked by how this story of race became science. It’s really alarming to see how science can be manipulated in a way that supports people’s biases. There’s an authority given to these white men in lab coats that allows them to influence what many of us believe to be fact or “science”.

    I agree with you about the free speech movement. We saw this past week with Ryan T. Anderson being invited to campus how harmful it is to give certain people a platform. There’s a TED Talk called the Right to Speak where they discuss this issue. One of the guests argues that by listening to views that we profoundly disagree with we can strengthen our own views even more, and learn how to argue against the opponent. While that may be true, I don’t think it is worth disenfranchising groups of people or giving hate speech a platform. You’re absolutely right that both sides have to respect the subject’s right to existence. Really well put.

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