The Story We Tell: Pre-viewing Activity

Please answer BOTH of the following questions prior to our viewing Episode Two: The Story We Tell

> How long do you think the idea of race has been around? Where did it come from?

> Do you think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved?

40 thoughts on “The Story We Tell: Pre-viewing Activity

  1. Personally I do not know how long the idea of race has been around, but if I had to guess I would say that it might have been around for as far back as we can think.
    I believe the idea of race came about as people began to explore the world and see that there were others that did not look like they did or were of a different culture. I believe the word race came about as an easy means of just classifying people into sub groups, I also believe that it was influenced also by different social classes.

    I believe that Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. They were looked upon as people that had no souls and were not of any value. Now as to why one would think that they have to power to tell what class of people are pure and valuable and what class disposable and of no value is hard to comprehend. I guess it dates back to where society dictates that you have to look a certain kind of way to fit in and anyone that does not fall into that mold is not worthy to be treated with respect and love.

    • Thanks for you response Venice. Society, or the actions of its people, indeed dictated that certain kinds of people were more civilized than others. However there were underlying motive that are often not discussed which you will see in the film. Race is a modern concept and shares America’s birthday 🙁

  2. Race has been around for centuries. I believe it may had begun in Europe. Most paintings were done by Europeans. Europeans depicted the African Americans in their view. However, not all the European artists showed Africans as slaves or servants. Some were of men of honor and distinction. Nevertheless, European artists also depicted Africans as slaves or servants.
    There are a few schools of thoughts on that subject. They were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. For that sad reason, there is justification for the latter. It still happens today in certain parts of the world where people who are considered inferior are enslaved and abused such as Pakistan, India, China, Nigeria etc.

    • Thanks Jennifer. There are in fact many schools of thought on the topic as presented by the guest lecturers from numerous disciplines. Also in the films shown in class the topic is discussed by experts of more than 5 different disciplines. The unique thing about American is that race was invented to rationalize slavery while in the other countries mentioned this was not the case. You will be sure to enjoy the film.

  3. Science, government and culture formed the ideas about race. Racism dates back to the European settlers in the 1500’s. While the European colonists were trying to settle and build colonies, they found Native Americans and encountered problems over possession of land. Around 1758 a scientist named Carolus Linnaeus published a human classification system. Thomas Jefferson also related race with biology. He believed whites were superior to Africans in mind and body. In the early 1900s, scientists developed different theories. There were theories that blacks and whites were two different species, or some believed that they were just a variations of the same species. It was Charles Darwin who believed we were all one species. Unfortunately, some scientists of that period made theories justify slavery and the horrendous treatment they endured. There was a racialization of not only African Americans, but Mexican, Chinese, Native Americans for social and political gain, slavery and free labor, and to take land away from Native Americans who were seen as savages. I believe there was slavery because Africans were deemed inferior, and scientists seem to come up with nonsensical theories to reinforce these ideas in society.

  4. I think the idea of race has always been around in some way or the other. Since race is a complicated topic it has taken many changes across many cultures. We can’t actually say where it came from. I think the world race itself took many forms and race is now a modified and more modern form of categories of people. So I think I would just say it came from society who would take into account social construct which provides us with understanding of racial categories. Also, every culture, every society, every community, every religion whether less or more has the concept of race.

    I think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior. This is because of how the society wants to perceive us. But unfortunately I believe in this context it is totally wrong. At that time, people believed just because White people thought that they were better looking and superior to Africans they were proud on themselves. They used to think that they are smarter and genius. No matter how much Americans were lazy they felt proud that they came from a noble family. Also, they used to think that Africans should obey them. However, there were Africans that were intelligent and good looking too but they were from a powerless family so Americans used to think that they should remain powerless and poor forever.

    • Good response. Prior to American culture, race was not an issue. It did not exist nor was it discussed. People were seen as different based on their wealth, education, class, or religion. Americans were the first to use the idea of race to rationalize radical divides among Americans such as slavery and eradicating Native Americans. You are very correct in saying that certain people had much to gain from deeming another group of people inferior. Those who were once at the bottom of the totem pole gained status by enslaving others, so race seemed like an important idea to help keep White status quo. Keep up the good thinking 🙂

  5. I think race have been around for a really long time, when human first roam the earth. Even though we don’t really know about it yet, it is there until someone express it and show the world. I would say it came from a group of people that study humans and came up with race to describe different people. Then later on it get spread around the world and people start viewing each other as different. Also i believe people consciously see others that are different from them as a different race.

    I believe Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior by the white man because they were lacking the technology the white people had. They were also easy picking during those time. Also the white people thought they were superior so they took advantage of the Africans because they were kind, hardworking, and didn’t know any of these new things that were shown to them. They were also lacking the weapons to fight back because they had guns and the Africans didn’t have those superior weapons.

    • Human difference has always existed– you are very correct in saying that. But ideas of race are more than skin deep. We associate certain abilities and behaviors to certain groups of people, and humans have not been doing that since the beginning of time. Historically things like class, wealth, religion, and education were what separated people and skin color was not related to that until the colonization of the U.S. American colonists were desperate for ways to unify so exert power and gain wealth, so race was invented to rationalize slavery. Other, older forms of slavery were never based on appearance, but rather class. Keep up the good work.

  6. The idea of race began when civilization started, i believe. It may not have been the ones we know so well of today like black, white, Hispanic, Asian. But it was there. If you were an outcast from the rest of the town, city, kingdom? You were a different race. I don’t know the origins of where race was brought up but i do know if you weren’t one kind of people, you were another thus, making you a different race. For example, Babylonians, and vikings. I think Africans were enslaved in America because they were enslaved. It was not until the slave trade got going, that this idea of Africans were inferior came up to justify the trade.

    • Thanks. There were always people deemed different or inferior, however the US was the FIRST to link this with outward physical appearance. That is why racism has persisted for so long because visible differences are so, well, visible.

  7. The idea about race it has been since many years ago. I can bring these movies from old Greek as an example, The emperor who control and command the society, and also the gladiators which the people from the top enjoy to watch the fight that it was until death. Additionally, they also used them to conquer different cities and countries to control and expand their leadership and the homeland.since that time slavery also took place, as at the same time the word of race appear. I think since the time of conquer countries, the country who has more power will govern the others, and which will used the people as their servant or slave which will in history will be very remarkable. In accordance of the USA history slavery, I think because the African American was a country with no power which a lot of people were black, American took them as inferior because they weren’t a powerful country, and also other countries as an example Brazil was in traffic of African American too.

    • Thanks Guillermo. Slavery has existed in many other countries, however the word race was never used (e.g., in Greece). People were deemed inferior based on their social class or religion. The continent of Africa housed incredibly powerful groups of people– Egyptians included. Africa was not expanding and seeking resources for power because everything that was needed for flourishing was already there. Africans were taken by force and many died while being taken from their land. Other European nations had settled on the continent of Africa. The American slave trade was a desperate attempt for the US to gain power since it was such an early/young nation. The rationalization for slavery was the invention of race, because American was founded on ideals of equality, so something was required to explain why groups of people were kept in bondage. Race was created to cover up our country’s grasp for power and to promote the idea that Africans were put on this earth to be slaves. Keep up the good work– I hope my response has given you more to think about.

  8. I believe the idea of race has been around since the discovery of America. When the Europeans and Native Americans interacted with one another, they realized how different they were from one another and I believe this stemmed the idea of race. Through the colonization of different lands, I believe people saw how different they were from people of other areas of the world and how much their cultures differed. As immigration from different parts of the world came to the United States, the more variety there was among people, which I believe sparked the start of race.
    I believe Africans were deemed inferior because they were enslaved. I think they were overpowered by better firearms and military. Since they got colonized, I believe the Europeans thought they can simply use them as slaves because of their inferior power, which led to the slave trade.

    • Thanks Adonis– differences were definitely recognized, and it was first spoke of in terms of being “civilized”. The terms race didn’t pop up until politicians asked scientists to rationalize slavery so that our country might still be founded on moral principles of equality. Science invented race so that White Americans could claim to be founded on liberty, justice, freedom, and equality, and that killing Native Americans and having slaves was just nature’s way of helping them because these people were biologically inferior. We quickly learn that there are not biological differences, but the damage has already been done.

  9. I believe race has been around since its inception, and let us not forget what race is. It represents our physical characteristics, such as our skin, hair, eye color, etc. Having said that, we live in a world today in which we are told that we have the right to free liberty, free speech, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. And yet minorities still face issues in the community, just like African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, centuries ago. Nothing has really changed from yesteryear to today because there is no basis of trust, but an increase in discrimination. For example, let’s go back in time when the British government ruled India. There was no equality what so ever, you had Indian people who had never known a free life. They most probably came from isolated communities. They had no idea what their rights were. Indians were forced to work on plantations where they were treated more like slaves as opposed to workers. Thus, race came from those people who believed they were more powerful and authoritative than those who held little value or merit. In this case, the white British government overpowered India and their Asian communities. It is very similar to see what happened back then in India and now. Today we still have an uptick in discrimination and trust between police officers and African Americans, which is very disconcerting to me because this tells me that we are still labeling ourselves so other people use it as an excuse to judge us. This I feel is wrong. As I said earlier, our race defines us only by our physical characteristics, which is skin deep.

    I believe white people realized an opportunity for financial stability and seized the moment. I believe Africans were deemed inferior because they were enslaved. I believe the white race had the mind set to know that they had to use the Africans in a way to develop their economy. So the whites had basically tricked the Africans into slavery. Africans were also seen working in hot extreme temperatures.

    • Great response! Your examples of British colonization of India is incredibly accurate. We’re talking about the same group of people, just at a different time. And once the idea of race was created, it was used widely for gaining power over others. Keep up the good work!

  10. I think the idea of race has existed since forever. No matter how much you decide to go back in history or no matter how much older movie you can pick to watch, you will always see elements of racism present in it. Race is judged by the physical characteristics of a person, skin color, facial features and hair type. This distinction has existed since the very beginning of the world and so has racism. Once humans started to realize that they have different physiques than their fellow human beings, that’s when racism began.
    I believe Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior by the white people due to the African Americans being less modernize than the whites and also being poor, gave the whites an excuse to enslave them and “use” them for their financial benefits.

    • Thanks Sehar. There were plenty of poor whites in the US, and in fact as a racial group, Whites are still the majority of the poor in the US. Human variation always existed, but became confronted as people became mobile to move around the world. Class, religion, education and wealth have been used to divide people the longest. Race only came into the picture 400 years ago. There had always been wealth and economic differences among people of ALL skin tones, but we invented the term race to rationalize the slavery taking place in the US. The film will explain this in great detail.

  11. I believe that the idea of race has been around many centuries ago. When we learn the world history from textbooks, we can see how people were treated differently based on looks and power in society. I also believe the discovery of the Americas impacted more the differences on race, native Americans are dark skin comparing to Europeans. Therefore, the idea of being light skin are superior than those with color.

    I think that Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior. In my opinion, after the discovery of the Americas white men with power and money colonized the Americas with the idea that slavery is the right thing to do with uncivil people, such as, Africans. I believe that Africans were treated as slaves because they were not civil and powerless. They were forced to serve the white men for life in order to see their family.

    • Thanks Elisia. 4 centuries to be specific. The film will show you that while economic differences have always existed within the world, America was the first to try and rationalize the act of slavery. Politicians asked science to come up with a way to rationalize why one group of people could be kept in bondage while founding a nation based on the principles of justice, freedom, and equality. I think you will enjoy what the film has to offer.

  12. I think race was always around, but not to the extent of how people view race today. Back in the Roman times, when Romans defeated the Greeks, slaves were present in society, the only thing was that the slaves were captured Greeks put to service. When Western Europe started expanding around the globe, back when places like Southern Africa was still divided by tribes and different cultures separated by different areas like the desert or the rainforest, it wasn’t that big of a deal. France was among the first countries to treat darker skinned people like everybody else. It didn’t help that white Americans started the whole Triangle Trade thing, where the Americas, Europe and Africa started trading certain ‘things’ to each other.
    I’m pretty sure that Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. Africans or African Americans weren’t even seen as people, especially because of the population clause of “5 African/African-American people= 3 white people”. They were even considered to have no mortal status and it was fine for white slave owners to do whatever they wanted to their ‘property’.

  13. It’s been around for seemingly forever. Probably as a consequence of migration and the conquering of territories as a way to label people. However, I’m not sure when and where exactly started.

    I think that Africans were deemed inferior in the Americas because they were enslaved. Then again, the reason why they were enslaved is because they were well-suited to labor, stronger and more obedient than any other so-called “race”.

  14. I think the idea of race has been around since the beginning of civilization. I think it derived from how people migrate. I believe that in certain countries or continents there were only people who looked similar to each other; therefore, when different people started traveling to different areas the fact that people looked different caused the idea of race. It caused the idea of how certain races were inferior or superior to others.
    > Do you think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved?
    I think African Americans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior due to the lack of advancement they had. I . They made them slaves only to make them more inferior and for their benefit. Once they were enslaved white people were afraid that African Americans would try to overpower whites; therefore, not allowing them to read or write.

  15. 1. How long do you think the idea of race has been around? Where did it come from?
    The idea of race has been around for decades. I believe it came from a group of people who can not deal with the sight of another group of people being just as good as they are. So they had to find a name and label the people and use it whenever they wanted to bring the next group down.
    2. Do you think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved? Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. Americans looked at Africans as the lowest of them all because they were jealous. They hated Africans skin color, and their ability to be able to do something better than them. Shamefully in America people have an obsession with skin color. The lighter your skin is the better but contradict the situation with things as such as tanning to make their skin darker. this situation has gotten better with time but we still deal with certain situations of race. Maybe one day it will come to an end. Everyone is looked at the same. If you are going to judge somebody judge them after getting to know them first.

  16. I think the idea of race has been around for a long time. Since the moment that people discovered that there were people who actually looked different the idea of race was born. From there people were group, categorized and also even judge. I believe race started in Europe and migrated its way to United states. Europeans settlers came to Americas to colonize, but found that the land was already taken over by Native Americans and from there discovered different people existed and the idea of race was born. I believe from this point the idea of race started to shape society , with the help of science whites believe that their were superior while everyone else like African Americans and Native Americans were inferior.

    I believe Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior. I say this because the Whites believed there were the dominant race, as in they were superior and believe themselves to be smarter compare to Africans Americans. Since Whites had more power compare to African Americans who had no say in anything, they enslaved them for economical benefits.Whites having more advantages made African Americans be put to labor for and not give them any rights. Since whites believe there weren’t actually people for that they thought they were superior while Africans were inferior to them.

  17. I believe the idea of race has been around since the creation of a society. I say this because within societies social norms are formed, therefore one of these norms created was race. Different races formed from all over the world. It started with people just looking different from one another, having different physical features. People started putting themselves and others into categories of different races.

    I think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior. I think this because people took advantage of them, because they were of a different color. People felt superior to the Africans so they took advantage of enslaving them.

  18. In America, the idea of race has been around ever since slavery started. That’s when people were distinguished by their skin color, hair texture and etc… I don’t think race came from anywhere. It was just created by the slave owners or just people, in general, to separate themselves from the “lower class.”

    I believe that Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. Because they had darker skin color, the were automatically looked down upon. And that was an opportunity for poor whites to create a higher standard for themselves by making darker skinned feel lower and worthless.

  19. Q.1 How long do you think the idea of race has been around? Where did it come from?
    The idea of race has been here for many hundred years. However, the movie called “The Power of an Illusion”, mentioned that the word “Race” turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings. In addition, it has been around since people started to distinguish themselves on the basis of their physical appearances such as skin and eyes color, hair texture, shape of the nose and mouth. Correspondingly, when people migrate to another country and if their skin color, as well as language is not the same then, they instantly think about race. If I were to decide whether race is good or bad, I would have picked bad because it segregates people from society. All of us are born from God and whether if anyone is white, black or Asian, all of us have to die one day and no one knows how long you will survive for. More importantly, a movie where discussed “All men are created equally”, refers to equal treatment before the law and equal opportunity to make something for themselves. Nevertheless, its other way around since race is still exist everywhere whether people are black, white or Hispanic. Ultimately, it came from the people who started thinking everybody has its own race.

    Q.2 Do you think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved?
    Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior the idea of slavery had been existed before Europeans entered in the Americas. Africans were enslaved in the Americas, at least initially, because other Africans sold them to Americans or other westerners. The owners were able to do this because they had beaten those other tribes in war or other conflicts. Nevertheless, I think there was some belief that Africans were distinctively inferior which existed before all of this making enslavement seem “natural” after the fact. What’s more, I tend to think racism and other bad treatment of those whatever power came along after such treatment began in order to justify it as opposed to the reverse. The belief came after the actions, which are more about greed and inhumanity rather than any belief system.

    • Very thorough response. I am pleased that you’ve been paying such close attention to the films. You enjoy “The Story We Tell” because it will pick up where your comment has left off.

  20. I think that racism, or a form of it, has persisted since the beginning of time. Every ancient civilization had its way of categorizing members of society (think of the caste system in India, or the peasant-feudal lord relationships in the olden times) which had good intentions at first, until politics and economies became more and more complicated.

    I think that the Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. This is because of the European mentality that their civilization is much more modern, therefore better. We see this trend on all expeditions made outside of Europe (just think of Pocahontas’ story), when they come into a foreign land and make everything theirs, as if it was their God given right. As for slavery in the United States, I think they saw the Africans as an opportunity to increase their wealth without so much investment. At the end of the day, it was again a case of one thinking highly of themselves, without any concern towards the other.

  21. I think the idea of race has been around since the slavery. It must have been discovered in white country such as United Sates or Europe. I think first it must have been started from the Europe according to the history then would have reach to the America. The reason behind this could be from their dark skin, physical appearance, lack of power and being poor. As we see in the news people are chanting “black lives matter” I believe we are seeing the world in various groups and each group is categorized as different race.
    I think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior. It could have been because of their religion which is why they were unprotected by English law. Furthermore, they were put down because of their dark skin and physical features. Whites had more power which helped them dominating the Africans. As an old saying goes “Majority is authority” that time white people were large in number that was another advantage for them to enslave Africans.

  22. I believe the birth of race took place when the Americas were being discovered and colonized. Before that whenever someone referred to another person instead of skin color which could vary they would go by country of origin. Whatever country you were born in, that’s what you are and that was the end of the discussion. As the United States grew and we developed a melting pot of different people we began to use what we see to start differentiating people.

    I believe Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. I believe in certain situations you would hear white talk about Africans as if they are Savages and they need to be kept in control.

  23. I personally believed race has been around for many centuries. I think it started from the word of Adam and Eve. As per the bible it started in the book of Noah.The bible states “There is only one race”.

    I believe Africans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. I strongly believe this because slaves were treated as tools. Africans Sold their own people to survive. The white people had much authority and power and they would talk among themselves stating how Africans need to be kept in control like they were animals.

  24. Race started in the 19 th century imperialism was practiced by europeans who are mostly whites.white people looked upon asians and africans as illiterate and cultureless people and felt it was their need to civilize them.this is called ‘ white man’s burden’
    I believe African Americans were enslaved because they were deemed inferior. I say this because the only reason they were slaved was because of there skin color. They were portrayed as barbaric,in humane and animal like. They were not considered human because of how they looked. They did not fit the ideal picture society paints as what a human being should look like. It is those reasons that African Americans were enslaved.

  25. > How long do you think the idea of race has been around? Where did it come from?
    The idea of race has been around for many years. I think the idea of race was created to breaks us apart. According to the history of the United States the idea of race was created due to slavery. In order to separate the white from the blacks as well to classify them economically.
    > Do you think Africans were enslaved in the Americas because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved? Yes Africans Americans have been mark due to the slavery years. I think ever since slavery Africans Americans have been considered and treated differently compared to other races. They are classify as low class , low education, high in health problems and so on.

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