A glance around campus will reveal people with different skin tones, hair colors and textures, eye shapes and body types. Often one thinks of these attributes combined together to specify a person’s race, however, race is not determined biologically, rather, it is a socially constructed concept that has been shaped throughout history.
The Office of Multicultural Activities on Monday night showed the film Race-: The Power of an Illusion to spark discussion among audience members about the scientific aspects of race and the consequences that stem from the subject.
“I think a lot of people understand how race is perpetuated through society, but not as much how it’s a biological issue,” Christopher Chell, a graduate assistant from the Office of Multicultural Activities and coordinator of the event said.
Science has unveiled the misconception that race is biologically based by exploring genetics, human variation, evolution and scientific classification.
Herrica Telus, a sophomore studying psychology, said she was surprised at the myth surrounding sickle-cell disease. The film showed how the disease is not exclusive to people with African ancestors; it affects people whose ancestors lived in malaria-susceptible regions, such as the Mediterranean and Africa.
The film showed that when people assume external differences are linked to classified sets of internal differences they are blatantly mistaken. One example is when people assume blacks are superior when it comes to athletic ability.
Regarding the sport of basketball and each cultures’ dominance in it, Lyle Coward, a junior studying biomedical science, said, “First, the Jewish were good, then African-Americans, and now foreign-born are good.”
Through history, it’s been shown whatever group has an advantage is therefore superior.
According to Chell, the film is the third part of Bulls Eye View series titled “What is Culture.” The six-part series is designed to introduce students to culture and its broad parameters and to initiate discussion about major themes. The upcoming events will be held on the last Monday of the months of January, February and March.
The film’s purpose is to test how valid peoples’ beliefs are when it comes to race.
“Race is one topic where we all think we’re experts,” Larry Adelman, the executive producer of the film, said in a statement on PBS.org. “What we discovered is that most of our common assumptions about race for instance, that the world’s people can be divided biologically along racial lines– are wrong. Yet the consequences of racism are very real.”
The film pointed out the human race must realize genetically it is most similar as a species.
“Any two fruit flies may be genetically different from each other as a chimpanzee and human would be,” according to the film.
The film showed high school students performing mitochondria DNA experiments. Their results emphasized there is more genetic diversity within particular racial groups than between two separate races.
“It makes me anxious to find out who I’m linked to,” said Dafinie Jacques, a senior studying biomedical science.
According to Chell, the film shows how race is a socially constructed idea that was and still is used to manipulate and control all of society.
“The first step to undo race is to understand we created it,” said Paola Gonzalez, a junior studying computer science.