As Black Lives Matter protests erupt around the world, it is pivotal to educate yourself about racism. “Race: The Power of an Illusion” is a great way to start.

On May 25, 2020, the horrific face of American racism revealed itself again through the brutal murder of George Floyd. Surveillance footage shows George handcuffed and lying on the concrete in front of a market, while officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck. He spent the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his life gasping for air, begging his oppressor to loosen his grip.

The umpteenth death of an African-American at the hands of a law enforcement officer ignited a fire of social upheaval across the country. Although the protests started in Minneapolis, where George was murdered, the powerful message of the Black Lives Matter movement resonated globally, creating a powerful shockwave.

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In addition to the in-person protests, campaigns such as #BlackOutTuesday and hundreds of fundraisers are currently taking place in the online sphere. However, this historical moment is also an opportunity for people to educate themselves on racial discrimination, social justice, civil rights, and white privilege.

Deconstructing the concept of race may be a good starting point, which is provided by a powerful three-part documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion.

Produced in 2003 by California Newsreel in cooperation with PBS and the Ford Foundation, the mini-series will guide you through the origins of the idea of races, the beliefs that uphold it, and its consequences. “Millions of people have used the series to scrutinize their own deep-seated beliefs about the idea of race, and explore how our social divisions are not inevitable but made,” said series executive producer Larry Adelman.

While the documentary is usually screened on TV only, you can now watch all the chapters online for free thanks to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organization that has obtained broadcasting rights.

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The first episode titled Differences Between Us is dedicated to othering and stereotypes, the rich history of racial pseudoscience, and matters of biology and genetic variation. It demonstrates that, despite popular beliefs, peoples do not come packaged into distinct biological clusters.

The following chapter called The Story We Tell explores the dark history of racial ideas, tracing them back to the New World’s European conquest. “Ancient peoples stigmatized ‘others’ on the grounds of language, custom, class, and especially religion, but they did not sort people according to physical differences,” explains the description.

Finally, the last installment named The House We Live In develops themes such as institutional racism, whiteness, class, and intergenerational poverty.

George Floyd protests in Uptown Charlotte, March 30, 2020 © Clay Banks / Unsplash
George Floyd protests in Uptown Charlotte, March 30, 2020 © Clay Banks / Unsplash

The documentary’s website states that this is “the first film about race to focus not on individual attitudes and behavior but on the ways our institutions and policies advantage some groups at the expense of others. Its subject is the ‘unmarked’ race: white people.”

In addition to its strong message, the online platform comes packed with videos, resources, and interviews to deepen the themes learned while watching the documentary.

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