Sept. 18 2012
In episode one, “The Difference Between Us” in the video Race - The Power of an Illusion, the narrator states that for several hundred years, Americans have classified people into groups based on physical characteristics such as skin color, body shape, or eye shape. This methodology was supported by scientists including evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, who put forward the idea that the beautiful simplicity of race is based on the identification of people by their physical characteristics without having to examine their genetic make-up. This shows that race was believed to be a biological tool used to identify individuals. This theory has been refuted by others, including microbiologist Pilar Ossorio, who claimed that no genetic markers could be found that could define race. In fact, there is only a trivial amount of genetic material within the human genome which accounts for racial characteristics. Biological anthropologist Alan Goodman explains the idea of race as a biological myth that requires a shift in perspective. He urges people to keep an open mind about the relationship between race and human biology. Today’s modern technology in genetics allow us to explore refute the misleading concepts people believed in.
Racial stereotypes exist in every level of society. Unjustified beliefs and stereotypes associated with African Americans have brought about a great deal of tension between them and other ethnic groups. A group of male and female runners who were preparing for the Adidas Nationals were interviewed in the video and they were asked about their opinion of the stereotype that African Americans have the inborn advantage at running. White runners stated that they do not believe in this stereotype, and Black runners refuted this concept further by proposing that they could be beaten by White runners. Their answers showed a clear image of how these biased stereotypes are coming from misinformed outside perspectives. Race is not a biological concept - it does not define individual identity. It is used to justify inequalities in society and, according to Hammonds, historian of science, we must unmake this race-based torrent of bias that we have created because it is eroding the foundation of society. The concept of race was created mainly to exercise power: political power, industrial power, and economical power. Abusers of power attribute social differences to immutable biological sources. They disguise the statistics of African American people’s high infant mortality rates, low income, and high crime rates and blame them all on the biological differences between races. The fact is, according to Hoffmann, an insurance statistician, African Americans are living on the bottom of the social ladder and are suffering from huge gaps in wealth and health between themselves and White people due to institutionalized discrimination: it is a vicious cycle in which disadvantageous ethnic groups do not receive as many shares of resources as White people do due to segregation, expulsion, and exclusion. Their quality of life cannot be improved, which leads to the situation today in which their level of income, social status, and education stay subordinate compared to White people. Historian Theda Perdue states in the second video The Story We Tell that race evolves over time, and is constructed by society to achieve political and economic goals. When the first Africans arrived in the United States, religion and wealth defined social status instead of physical appearance. In those times, people did not have a clear definition of race and it was not a factor that contributed to inequality. However, over time the social hierarchy became focused on the content of race, and the labor shortage caused the Anglo-Saxon core to abuse their power by arbitrarily assigning the inferior group as sub-human slaves. Historian Fredrickson explains to the audience that a bargain…