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Reflection On The Documentary Race The Power Of Illusion

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Racial inequalities have plagued social culture and has shaped United State history since its creation. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines race as a “category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits”. In other words, race is not innate, it is a non-biological concept based on social interpretations which has grouped individuals into categories based on visual differences. The ideology of race has been the root suffering and death through wars and discrimination.

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The documentary, Race the Power of Illusion, provides a timelined explanation the origin of race and the various misconceptions and theories surrounding it through explanations, examples, and expert opinions. While I was already keenly aware of many of the historical events and incidences discussed in the documentary including assimilation, slavery, manifest destiny, eugenics, “white man’s burden”, there were many aspects to these events that I was never taught about. Today there are many of us, that believe that we live in a colorblind society; however instutionalization of race is impossible to overlook stressing the importance of cultural awareness and competency. The founding fathers of the U. S put forth a notion based on liberty and equality declaring that “all men are created equal”; however many of them were slaveholders themselves. This created a moral contradiction between equality and the right to hold slaves. In order to justify their contradictions, slaves were discriminated against and claimed to be of a different species through the use of eugenics.

The aftermath of slavery and institualization of racism in the United States resulted in the embedment of the idea of innate inferiority and superiority. The documentary mentioned Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia which was something that I was never taught about. After researching I was surprised at how bluntly racist it is through the claims that African Americans were completely different in both mind and body. I also astounded to learn about the Nazi’s claimed inspiration from the American enegenicts on racial profiles. These ideas presented exhibited that race has been use in our society to benefit some through false claims which degrade others in the process. While mentioning eugenies, the documentary approaches the common theory of genetic difference among the DNA of different races. Along with Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of race, our textbook states that race is based on physical characteristics such as skin tone, hair texture and facial feature. The idea that race is genetically based drives the misconception that basic external differences are linked to complex internal variances; for example: athletic ability, musical talent and intelligence. This misconception has created various generalization and inaccurate stereotypes that still exist today.

In regards to my own life, I have seen how embedded these stereotypes and generalizations are especially in sports. After watching this documentary I began to think about the various stereotypical comments I have heard. One in particular that was also mentioned in the documentary was that African Americans are faster runners in comparison to white individuals. This comment is one that I have heard multiple times before but was so normalized that I never thought about the racial implications. This personal experience showed me the importance to stop normalizing stereotypes and assumptions by being more culturally competent. Along with external and with internal differences correlating with each other, the documentary follows a group of students participating in an mDNA workshop. This workshop was a way for the students to learn about the differences and similarities amongst each other. Before receiving their results the students hypothesized that individuals of same decent would be more genetically similar. After comparing and contrasting their data, I was astonished to see that the student’s DNA showed that they could be equality related to each other regardless of race. The reason that I was shocked at the results was because I too believed that one’s DNA would be similar to those of a same race.

This scene made me think about the U. S census race questions and how until recently there has been a greater variation within the racial and ethnic categories. This categorization of 5 racial groups leads our society to believe that those of same racial category are closely related. The results of the workshop, it denoted the misconception that race can be separated by group as most if not all of us have a vast ancestry which impacts genetic makeup.

01 April 2020

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