‘Race: The Power of an Illusion’

The PBS series, “Race: The Power of an Illusion” explores “race in society, science and history.”  Here’s a link to the online companion to the California Newsreel’s 3-part documentary.

The exercise, Sorting People: Can You Tell Somebody’s Race by Looking at Them?,” asks “How easy is it to group people into ‘races’ based on appearance? What about using individual traits? Does everybody classify the same way?”

Try your hand at “sorting” individuals and see if it matches how people think of themselves.  Reflect on how we tend to sort people by physical traits.

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4 responses to “‘Race: The Power of an Illusion’

  1. This was a very interesting experiement, however. no matter how many times a test like this is done, no one will ever get it 100%. Often times people will not say what they truly are. People think it makes them satnd out or different if somehow they can mix up their nationality or race. The census bureau allocates money to certain areas where certain races reside. Most people don’t know this and if that particular state gets a low number in let’s say African-Americans residences, less money will go towards certain programs. The census is looking to put money in certain areas where the majority of African-Americas reside, but if they are considering themselves and marking mix or other on the census, they end up hurting themselves. We all are mix with something, however, just stick to whatever is on your birth certificate.

  2. There are those who can clearly be placed in a specific race due to distinct traits .FOR EXAMPLE IF YOU HAVE SLANTED OR CHINKY EYES ,I WOULD BE ABLE TO TELL THAT THE PERSON IS FROM ASIAN DESCENT. HOW EVER THERE ARE SO MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE OF MIXED RACES THAT ITS GETTING HARDER AND HARDER TO CLASSIFY SOMEONE IN ONE CATEGORY , YET WHEN IT COMES TO PAPER WE ARE CONFINED TO 5-6 RACIAL CATEGORIES.WHICH ONE DO YOU CHOOSE?

  3. i really liked this experiment because it reminded me of how much i hate the race categories on the forms you have to fill out for tests and other paper work. Just because someone may look a certain race does not mean they classify as one. Especially in the world today race classification is extremely difficult. Many people are mixed with different races and it is extremely unfair that they have to be classified as “Asian” when they are Asian and African American or “Caucasian” when they are caucasian and native American.

  4. This was interesting. I actually took my time to try to decipher between who would be part of which race category and the most I got was two in the correct race slot. That just goes to show you, you can never tell.

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