The Difference Between Us: Pre-viewing activity

Before we view the first of three parts of the film “Race: The Power of an Illusion”, you will participate in a pre-viewing activity for each episode described below.

YOUR TASK:  Answer ONE of the four questions listed below using the comments section featured below.

> How would you define race? What does it mean to you?

> How many races do you think there are? What are they? How do you decide which race someone belongs to?

> Look around the room or around your community. Who do you think is likely to be most similar to you, biologically or genetically? Why?

> Where do your ideas about race come from? What are the sources of your information?

30 thoughts on “The Difference Between Us: Pre-viewing activity

  1. I believe we all have our own idea of the concept of what “Race” is. For me, Race is somewhat of a physical and geographical identification system, similar to the demographic systems used in marketing. In the early United States, Black Slaves were assumed to be too ignorant to read/write because their race was inherently of lesser intellect. Then, slaves started learning and teaching others to do the same, and when it was realized that these presumptions were incorrect and literacy was helping black slaves progress in the world the act of teaching a slave to read/write became illegal in order to continue an era of oppression (that caused effects that we continue to feel today). Women are not wildly considered a race, but a similar system of spreading a narrative that they are inferior physically/mentally to men was also used to oppress them.

    I don’t see race as a means a predetermining a person’s capabilities, especially because so many different races are lumped together (Hispanic, Black, etc… Descendants of the slave trade are not the same as a Kenyan student, but both are lumped together as “Black”). I see race as a means of division created and used by anybody in power in order to separate and confuse the common man in order to keep certain people in a certain status. This system can also be used to help people find commonality with those who share their same racial group, which is why it continues to be a common issue in the world, IMHO.

    Throughout history people in power have used opinions about race as fact in order to discredit groups, and as education and interaction grow these presumptions become ridiculous chapters in history books.

    • Thanks Ron!
      I hate to disappoint with my feedback, but you’ve hit the nail on the head! I’ve not much to say.
      It’s as though you’ve already seen the film, so I will assume that you’ve done some reading and lots of listening over the course of your life. I recall you saying that you work in a health care setting, so I am eager to share with you the ways this conceptualization of race can be harmful to patients. I think you will enjoy how we will discuss race in health settings and I look forward to your contributions to that discussion.
      I think the most important point in your response has to do with potential. It is immeasurable. This is touched upon nicely in the film we will be viewing in class tomorrow. I look forward to your post-viewing essay Thursday.

  2. From a biological aspect i don’t think race exist, one can not accurately and precisely divided people in to boxes based on phenotypical characteristics for example a person who is considered black could in fact have a heritage that is more “white” than “black” with just the last few members of his or her heritage being “black”. Now, from a social aspect race is very real. I believe race is a social construct originally created by the ruling class, aristocracy or plutocracy to divide groups of oppressed people and get them to fight and hate each other rather than the elitist who are oppressing them. Race as a social construct to me was created and use to establish a hierarchy based on the differences in peoples hair and skin color among other things. Nowadays to me race is still use is this way but it also indicates a group of people who have or have shared a similar history and struggle or lack there of in terms of “race”.

    • Thanks Richard-
      You got it. Biologically speaking, race does not exist. Socially we have created such a mess. By we I mean those who were a part of our American history. While you and I may not have been a part of that, I still take some ownership, as with education comes power. I am pleased to learn more about what you know. Race is a tool for power. We created it here in the U.S. and it has been exported– first by Hitler in WWII and today by almost everyone. (Hence reactions to Beyonce halftime performance– race is used to explain just about anything). Great feedback.

      • What really bothers me is the lack of understanding and/or caring about the psychological impacts that the creation of race as a oppressive social construct has had on people of color. The negative associations put on people of color in my opinion has done great damage to black peoples psychic and confidence, especially in terms of internalizing those negative associations. Its really sad.

  3. To be honest for years I thought race and ethnicity were one in the same. Once I moved to NYC and lived in the diverse borough of Brooklyn I started to realize race and ethnicity were quite different. In the most basic of definitions race refers to a person’s physical characteristics such as skin color, eye color, hair and often structural build. I feel lucky to be immersed in such a diverse place such as Brooklyn. I grew up in a very “white” neighborhood in Boston, where race and ethnicity were very rarely discussed and shared. Now I watch my two young boys grow up and see how much more open and excepting to all people they are compared to my childhood. My son is in a public school in Brooklyn where they reenacted the civil rights march last month and it was the highlight of his year so far. He is in third grade and has been taking Arabic for 3 years and is so proud that he can read and write many words in Arabic. Race to me is a wonderful thing and we should all be so lucky and enjoy these opportunities we have with each other.

    • Thanks Julie-
      I am so pleased to hear about your (and your son’s) excitement regarding human variation! As people, it’s our greatest asset. Unfortunately, the birth of race was in the U.S. and has had nasty consequences ever since its conception. I think you will enjoy the journey we are about to embark on as a class, particularly the race film series. I will also add that race, ancestry and ethnicity are quite different: with both race and ethnicity being defined by the U.S. Federal Office of Budget and Finance. (I kid you not). Ancestry is scientifically more solid, yet has nothing to do with race. There’s also good reason why folks are confused about these ideas- its quite intentional. Lastly, I too have fallen in love with Brooklyn, having come from a very White CT.

  4. I would define race as your physical appearance. Since humans live in different places of the world, it is obvious we would have different appearances. An example is my native country, Dominican Republic, since it is in the Caribbean, its native people are dark skinned. Dark skin is less likely to get sunburned and less likely to develop skin cancer. It also is a natural protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. So basically its nature’s way of protecting humans. Humans adapt and evolve to be able to live in many different parts of this big world. Skin color is just one example.

    To me race doesn’t really mean anything. It just shows your roots or where you came from. Even that could be wrong. As I stated earlier, I am Dominican and generally Dominicans are dark skinned but I am as white as they come. I have no idea why but I am sure genetics have something to do with it. It’s a shame that race has been use to oppress other human beings.

    • Thanks Jose. Mythbuster alert: Dark-skinned folks are just as likely, and in some cases MORE likely to get skin cancer. The numbers are rising because of type of thinking: I don’t need sunscreen because I am dark. Lather up my friend!
      You are correct that our physical appearance is linked to where our ancestors once lived. I also appreciate your comment that is has been used to oppress people. You will be watching a film series that will detail that history, which unfortunately originated in the U.S.

  5. Race categorizes individuals whether White, Black, Asian etc. This is connected with the individual’s ancestry. Race assumes an individual fits the mold of the entire race however this is not true in all cases. Prejudice due to racial tensions still exists worldwide and in the United States. Race also is an identifier for people and triggers discrimination.

    What does Race mean to me? Race is insignificant in my perceptions and interactions with others. I see people as people, not a race nor do I stereotype people for their race. Race also means conflict, as conflict is caused by racial tensions and generalizations.

    • Thanks Michelle. Race has always been historically linked to conflict and you will see that in the film series that we will be watching this semester. Also, ancestry and race are actually two different things! This will talked about in the film tomorrow. Thanks for you comment. I am pleased to hear that you actively practice not using stereotypes. I hope you learn lots from this course!

  6. Although race seems to be more of a biological stereotype which you are put into when you are born. I believe that someones race can be defined by the actions they do, the beliefs they have, and the community that they surround themselves in. For example lets say Child A is born as a non asian but is then adopted by an asian family. Child A then lives his whole life following the customs and traditions of said asian family. From my views of race, Child A is that said race.

    Race isnt as relevant to me compared to a persons personality, behaviors and such. However race to me is more of a barrier that I’d like to overcome when I do meet someone new as race determines a persons whole life. I always try to be sensitive about a persons race and get to know about the race before jumping into conclusions. However I believe that some people although they have the same race, they can have different views/beliefs.

  7. For me race is just a word use to describe that we all have different characteristic traits. We all have different hair color, eye color, skin color, etc. Is just a way for us to physically differentiate a person from the rest of us. However, some people misunderstand the real meaning of this word and use it to discriminate and generalize against others especially when it comes to judging only from the skin color. The word race has brought so many problems in this country, especially in New York which is a melting pot when it comes to people. We can find people from all over the world with different traditions, beliefs and skin color and yet we still discriminate them because we think they all are the same.
    To me, race does not have any meaning. We all know that we are different because not even twins are 100% similar, there is always something different in each of them. All we have to do is learn how to treat people instead of judging because of their nationalities or skin color. We need to view people for who they are not for how they look.

  8. I think there is only one type of race which is the human race. I believe that we are all one blood. Ideally speaking, society has implemented race as being the color of your skin. Therefore, most people would decide someones race by their skin tone. For Example, the most cliche debate amongst race is White Vs Black. However, we all have the same skin color yet different skin tones. This is due to the melanin in our skin. One way to explain this idea is thinking of a spectrum. There is no cut off point in the variance of skin tone from light to dark. A better way to understand the human race is by their culture and ethnicity.

  9. I was fortunate to live in Northern Africa till the age of 16, I never knew that racial separation existed till I moved to the US. Where I lived, there were Blacks and Whites living together, there wasn’t a time I heard anyone saying Blacks and Whites should be living separate or heard about Blacks and Whites are two different races. I never knew that “Blacks and whites are two different races” till I moved to the US. All those 16 years of my life I thought blacks and white are the same in the society (meaning they were all Algerians), and I believed that race was “the cultural group we belong too and someone’s nationality”.
    After I came to the US I learned about races, I learned that race is based on the physical traits to categorize human beings and “skin color” was used as part of the racial categorization. The way I would define race is “grouping of people” with similar physical traits, but without putting lot of stress on skin color. To my belief skin color should not be the main characteristic of determining which race someone belongs too. Race doesn’t mean anything to me, I know that we humans all are created the same. The only thing that is important to me is ethnicity, the ethnic group that you belong to.

  10. Race is a method of categorizing different people. It is based on skin color, characteristics, and background. I believe that race is a word that has no real meaning to it. Race doesn’t have a proper definition to it, most people in today’s society look at race by ur skin color. When in reality skin color has nothing to do with it, we are all human beings and genectically the same. Race shouldn’t exist at all, if there were no discrimination everyone would be treated equally. To me there is only one race and that is the human race.

  11. What is race to me? I would define it as a selection of different ethnic groups that a human could be apart of. They vary depending on location/origin and physical similarities. To me, it means that each group (race) share a different opinion on life such as culture and its history. A lot may say it vary depending on skin color, but one could be of mix race and not belong to only one group. My outlook on race is thats its just a method used to categorize people that many times causes segregation and racial profiling which often turns into violent outbreaks or some one being mistreated. Your race should not have such a strong effect but in todays society it does. People often say that one could either be offered or denied a job position depending on his/her race.

  12. I think the term race is used to group people based on their lineage and where their “people” are from geographically. For example, my sister was born here but her race would probably be considered South Asian, instead of American, since our parents are from Bangladesh. If we were to categorize people into races I believe there would be many more than the basic ones we see on surveys- Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern. We would need to consider African American or Afro-Caribbean, East or South Asian,Native American or Alaskan native and so on. All these categories are really based on geographical location of ancestors. It is not easy to group people into these small categories of race because like my sister, not everyone identifies with what their ancestors do.

  13. I would define race as different ethnic groups but to many people there are different definitions of race for them. Now race is being characterized by your skin color or how you look but you can not just look at someone else and say they belong to this race because there are many mixed race individuals . Race can also be looked at where you live because a whole community can just be one race. I believe race should not be looked like your different from someone else because it is not true everyone is a human being but to make everyone different than each other there categorized into a specific race according to society.

  14. Race to me is groups of who have classified each one based physical differences. Examples of race are, Hispanic African American, or Asian. Each group sets themself apart from skin color, eyes, or hair type. For me, race doesn’t matter in a personal level. But I know in society it matters. Now in days we have to check a box to identity what race we are. We are forced and asked to label ourself. But how can we do that if in the end I think we are alike. Yes physically we appear different, but inside we all have the same organs and blood running through our body. Because someone years ago invited the word race, now we all separate our worlds into group. For me we are all equal.

  15. How would you define race? What does it mean to you?

    I would define race as our physical attributes, different dialects, social and economic status. An example of this would be that generally an African American will have a darker complexion, thicker hair, and eye types. Whereas, an Asian would have small eyes, thinner straight hair, and smaller body type.

    Personally, I feel like race is a term that is used to keep people divided which cause wars that can be avoided if people would stop trying to penalize others for their differences in their physical attributes.

  16. I think race is defined as to what ethnic group one belongs to. Now, I have seen some “mixed races” per se and this what I am not quite sure how one decides to which race they belong to. For me, it means those physical appearances that may be similar for individuals to belong to the same race.

  17. in all honesty, before i learned about race and ethnicity from this class, i didn’t know there was a difference between race and ethnicity, I considered them the same thing, but now my understanding has been changed and i feel more knowledgeable about the topic.

  18. In my opinion Race can be defined as a group of people having the same traits that can be transmitted from generation to generation. Race is more about skin color, and physical appearance. For example, it is always easy for people to identified a black, Spanish, or white people by his physical appearance and skin color.

    For me, race is a modern concept,that set a group of people with the same traits apart from one to another because we have different background…

  19. Race which actually based on a idea that there are genetically defined groups among humans such as Asian, White, Hispanic, Black etc. If we know about genetics we would see that there are no significant genetic difference between such groups of humans, only apparent differences such as skin color and hair color. So that’s why I think there should be only one race which is human race.

  20. It is difficult to group races at a glance. Race is the term used to classify humankind according to physical and genetic characteristics. They claimed that there were four main ethnic origins: Australoid, Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid. Then based on each physical characteristic of each individual we can say that White (Caucasoid or European) have certain characteristics that we look at to consider a white person white, they as long straight nose, straight and flat face, thin lips, skin tone from very light or pale pink, eyes from gray, dark blue, light blue, green, honey and brown, hair from platinum blonde, orange, red, brown, even black thin.
    When we talk about black race (Negroid or African) some characteristics on black race are very wide nose, dark skin tone, medium-tall, very thick lips, curly black hair curly or textured as wool and black or dark brown eyes.
    Regarding the yellow race (Mongoloid or Asian) some characteristics on the yellow race are a broad, flat face, flat nose, or sometimes long, very straight black hair, dark eyes, coppery complexion.
    All these features mentioned, direct us to decide which race someone belongs to

  21. Race is a social develop, not a natural one. It is an approach to gathering individuals in discrete classes in view of skin shading and other physical components. An arrangement of natural attributes and qualities that are available is a particular populace of individuals.

    For me, race was put on archives when it was trusted that individuals of other ethnicity were not the same . Rather than everybody being a part of mankind, it was thought “they” were “something else. It implies nothing to me. Everybody is hereditary the same, as found when they decoded our DNA. Yet at the same time everybody see physical contrasts, and they can’t be denied that they see something else. So they as a general public “have” to gathering them into various races. Issue with race is every general public deciphers race in an unexpected way.

  22. How would you define race? What does It Mean to you?
    In my opinion race is a species, in our case our race would all be the same since we are all homo sapiens. We are all part of the human race regardless of where we come from or what we look like. At the end of the day we are more alike than we would like to think, therefore all of this social segregation based on what we look like and where we come from is nonsense. We are a single species and yes, we all have different characteristics, different mind sets, different personalities etc. but that is what makes us all unique and individual. We should celebrate our differences rather than fear, attack, and belittle them.

  23. Race to me means a combination of biological and cultural similarities within a group, usually based on the country of origin. Living and working in Brooklyn has given me exposure to make different ethnic groups. Through interaction with different groups I am constantly learning new insights.
    Prior to this class race meant to me a combination of biological and cultural similarities within a group, usually based on the country of origin. Growing up in an insular Jewish community in Brooklyn, I know we were often misunderstood and prejudged by outsiders, however it never really affected my life until I entered the work place. However, I try to treat others as I want to be treated. Not by my outwards appearance, but rather as an individual and based on my actions.

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