Episodes 1 & 2

The first episode of Race – the Power of an Illusion approached the topic of race first how it originated in society, progressing to how it is understood today with the application of modern science. Originally race was the idea that external characteristics have a root in the internal characteristics of human beings. The most recognized and upheld being that people of color, really anything but whites, were inferior beings to their core. There was no scientific evidence of this claim however there was also a lack of understanding of biology and a means of conducting research. However, this did not stop scientists of the time from coming up with data to support that people of color were inferior. Even as society developed, stereotypes of those

The main take away I took from this episode was that modern science has found no biological or genetic differences between races, and that there are often more biological differences between “races” than across races. Episode two addressed in more detail how the development of slavery in America and notable figures like Thomas Jefferson played a role in the formation of race. This episode also discussed how some “races” of people like the native American Indians were forced to assimilate to white society. In this episode, I found it important to note how in documentation like paintings and other forms of artwork people of color were depicted in a savage-like manor while their white counterparts were civilized.

After watching both of these episodes, what stuck with me most came from the second episode where the idea that if the original claim about people of color was just that they were made for labor work (and not that innately they were less-than) than the concept of race would have dissipated. Because there was a connotation with what people of color are at their core, slavery and the negative connotation with black over white would have not been as ingrained in society. Not only does this frustrate me, but it has shown me the power of one single concept, and what it can turn into if that concept takes hold. In the second episode, I also struggled to understand how such “scientific evidence” as the skull experiment could have been accepted as a valid form of information comparing white and black people. This experiment was nothing but a combination of the prejudice beliefs and a lack of modern society that places inaccurate personality characteristics and traits on skull size and skin color.

Overall, these two episodes have left me with a few questions: What will concept of race will look like in the future? Will the newer scientific evidence eventually eradicate the concept of race from society, or if it is too ingrained in the make-up of the world we live in?

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