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Race: The Power of an Illusion

  • Congregational Church of Sunnyvale 1112 South Bernardo Avenue Sunnyvale, CA, 94087 United States (map)

Over 2 evenings we will screen this PBS 3-part documentary which questions the notion of race as biology.

Scientists tell us that believing in biological races is no more sound than believing the sun revolves around the earth. So if race is a biological myth, where did the idea come from? And why should it matter today? RACE—The Power of an Illusion provides an eye-opening discussion tool to help us examine our beliefs about race, privilege, policy, and justice. Each episode is 57 minutes. This event series is co-sponsored by Racists Anonymous at the Congregational Church of Sunnyvale.

Episodes 1 & 2 will be shown on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Episode I – “The Difference Between Us” examines how recent scientific discoveries have toppled the concept of biological race. The program follows a dozen diverse students who sequence and compare their own DNA. They discover, to their surprise, that their closest genetic matches are as likely to be with people from other “races” as their own. The episode helps us understand why it doesn’t make scientific or genetic sense to sort people into biological races, as it dismantles our most basic myths about race, including natural superiority and inferiority.

Episode II – “The Story We Tell” uncovers the roots of the race concept, including the 19th-century science that legitimated it and the hold it has gained over our minds. It’s an eye-opening tale of how America’s need to defend slavery in the face of a radical new belief in freedom and equality led to a full-blown ideology of white supremacy. Noting the experience of Cherokee Indians, the U.S. war against Mexico and annexation of the Philippines, the film shows how definitions of race excluded from humanity not only Black people, but anyone who stood in the way of American expansion. The program traces the transformation of tentative suspicions about difference into a "common-sense" wisdom that people used to explain everything from individual behavior to the fate of whole societies, an idea of race that persists to this day.

Episode 3 will be shown on Monday, May 13, 2019.