Race: The Power of an Illusion Episode 1&2

The first two episodes of “Race: The Power of an Illusion” left me thinking about the concept of race in a way that I never thought about prior to this class. When race is discussed in a casual setting, it is often referred to in terms of how people assign meaning to the way you look. The first episode makes you reconsider, what is race and how can we accurately define and talk about race? The idea that race is limited to the way we appear on the outside doesn’t consider the biological implications or the history of race. One of the concepts that stuck out most to me in the first episode is the way we attribute biology as an excuse for social differences. The episode teaches us that superficial traits can not be used to define race. More specifically, they show mtDNA tests of students who appear dramatically different to show how similar they are genetically. In fact, there is often the same if not more genetic differences between two people of the same “race” than two people of different races. Before watching this episode, I never understood how similar people are genetically regardless of how dissimilar they appear on the outside.

The second episode focused closely on the history of race in America. This episode was powerful and candid in the way it addresses how race was viewed socially over the years. I can’t help but continue to think about Thomas Jefferson’s role in assigning black citizens as inferior in society. Whether it was intentional or not, Jefferson proposed the idea that there was something different about black citizens, but he was not sure what. Maybe Thomas Jefferson only said there was something “different” as a way to justify his actions of living on a plantation and owning slaves. This episode opened my eyes to how much of an impact one comment can have on society. After saying this, Jefferson called on science to answer the question: what makes blacks inferior to whites? Asking this question in a scientific setting only led America to become more racist because asking this question only led scientists to further this hypothesis, instead of argue against it. Overall, there were many points in this episode about the history of race in America that left me shocked and upset. Historically, I knew that our country had huge issues in the way we treated race and human beings, but this episode made powerful points that left me astonished at America’s history.

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