Race: The Power of Illusion - A Three-Part Series

Join us as we watch these three documentaries and have an opportunity to reflect in small groups. Come to one or all three. In the press release describing this series the films are described as revealing how the myth of race took hold and retains its power.

“What if we suddenly discovered that our most basic assumption about race - for instance, that the world's people can be divided biologically along racial lines - was false? And if race is a biological "myth," where did the idea come from? How do our institutions give race social meaning and power by advantaging white people?

These are just a few of the questions raised by Race - The Power of an Illusion. It is the first documentary series to scrutinize the very idea of race through the distinct lenses of science, history and our social institutions. The series is narrated by CCH Pounder (The Shield, Warehouse 13, and NCIS: New Orleans). By asking, "What is this thing called 'race'?" a question so basic it is rarely raised, Race - The Power of an Illusion challenges some of our most deeply held beliefs.”

EPISODE 1: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US, Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Everyone can tell a Nubian from a Norwegian, so why not divide people into different races? That's the question explored in "The Difference Between Us," the first hour of the series. This episode shows that despite what we've always believed, the world's peoples simply don't come bundled into distinct biological groups. We begin by following a dozen students, including Black athletes and Asian string players, who sequence and compare their own DNA to see who is more genetically similar. The results surprise the students and the viewer, when they discover their closest genetic matches are as likely to be with people from other "races" as their own.

Much of the program is devoted to understanding why. We look at several scientific discoveries that illustrate why humans cannot be subdivided into races and how there isn't a single characteristic, trait - or even one gene - that can be used to distinguish all members of one race from all members of another.

EPISODE 2: THE STORY WE TELL, Tuesday, Nov 1, 2016, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
It's true that race has always been with us, right? Wrong. Ancient peoples stigmatized "others" on the grounds of language, custom, class, and especially religion, but they did not sort people according to physical differences. It turns out that the concept of race is a recent invention, only a few hundred years old, and the history and evolution of the idea are deeply tied to the development of the U.S.

"The Story We Tell" is an eye-opening tale of how deep social inequalities came to be rationalized as natural - deflecting attention from the social practices and public policies that benefited whites at the expense of others.

EPISODE 3: THE HOUSE WE LIVE IN, Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
If race doesn't exist biologically, what is it? And why should it matter? Our final episode, "The House We Live In," is the first film about race to focus not on individual attitudes and behavior but on the ways our institutions and policies advantage some groups at the expense of others. Its subject is the "unmarked" race: white people. We see how benefits quietly and often invisibly accrue to white people, not necessarily because of merit or hard work, but because of the racialized nature of our laws, courts, customs, and perhaps most pertinently, housing.

As "The House We Live In" shows us, until we address the legacy of past discrimination and confront the historical meanings of race, the dream of equality will remain out of reach.