Race - The Power of an Illusion
Groundbreaking Three-Part Series Presented by ITVS Challenges Genetic Basis of Race; Reveals How the Myth Took Hold and Retains Its Power
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(San Francisco, CA)—What if we suddenly discovered that our most basic assumption about race - for instance, that the world's people can be divided biologically along racial lines - was false? And if race is a biological "myth," where did the idea come from? How do our institutions give race social meaning and power by advantaging white people?
These are just a few of the questions raised by RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION, California Newsreel's provocative new PBS series produced in association with ITVS. The first series to scrutinize the very idea of race through the distinct lenses of science, history and our social institutions, RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION, will air nationally on PBS on three consecutive Thursday nights at 10 P.M.—April 24, May 1 and May 8, 2003. The series is narrated by CCH Pounder (The Shield). By asking, "What is this thing called ‘race'?” a question so basic it is rarely raised, RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION challenges some of our most deeply held beliefs. Ethnic cleansing, affirmative action battles, immigration restrictions—all place race at center stage in contemporary life. Race is so fundamental to discussions of poverty, education, crime, music and sports that, whether we be racist or anti-racist, we rarely question its reality.
Yet recent scientific evidence suggests that the idea of race is a biological myth, as outdated as the widely held medieval belief that the sun revolved around the earth. Anthropologists, biologists and geneticists have increasingly found that, biologically speaking, there is no such thing as "race.” Modern science is decoding the genetic puzzle of DNA and human variation—and finding that skin color really is only skin deep.
However invalid race is biologically, it has been deeply woven into the fabric of American life. RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION examines why and how in three one-hour installments. Episode 1: "The Difference Between Us,” surveys the scientific findings—including genetics—that suggest that the concept of race has no biological basis. Episode 2: "The Story We Tell,” provides the historical context for race in North America, including when and how the idea got started and why it took such a hold over our minds. Episode 3: "The House We Live In,” spotlights how our social institutions "make” race by providing different groups with vastly different life chances even today, 40 years after the Civil Rights Act.
Episode 1: "The Difference Between Us”
To all intents and purposes Roxanna was as white as anybody, but the 1/16 of her that was black outvoted the other 15 parts and made her a Negro. She was a slave and saleable as such. Her child was 31 parts white and he too was a slave, and by a fiction of law and custom, a Negro. — Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson
Everyone can tell a Nubian from a Norwegian, so why not divide people into different races? That's the question explored in "The Difference Between Us,” which demonstrates how recent scientific discoveries have toppled our common-sense assumption that the world's peoples come bundled into separate groups. It begins by following a dozen students, including black athletes and Asian string players, who sequence and compare their own DNA. The results surprise the students and the viewer, when they discover their closest genetic matches are as likely to be with people from other "races” as their own.
Much of the program is devoted to discovering why. It examines several discoveries that illustrate why humans cannot be subdivided into races, and reveals that there are no characteristics, no traits—not even one gene—that distinguish all members of one "race” from all members of another.
Humans are among the most similar of all species. That's because modern humans, all of us, evolved in Africa, and began leaving only about 70,000 years ago. As we migrated across the globe, populations bumped into one another, mixing their mates—and genes. Populations have not been isolated long enough to evolve into separate races, or sub-species.
In a "walk” from the equator to the North, we can see how visual characteristics vary gradually and continuously between populations. There are no boundaries.
We also learn that most traits—be they skin color or hair texture or blood group—are influenced by separate genes and thus inherited independently one from the other. Having one trait does not necessarily imply the existence of others. Skin color really is only skin deep.
Many of the variants in our visual characteristics, like different skin colors, appear to have evolved recently, after we left Africa. But the traits we care most about—intelligence, musical ability, physical aptitude—are old, and common to all populations. Geneticists have discovered that 85% of all genetic variants can be found within any local population, be they Poles or Hmong or Fulani. It turns out racial profiling is as inaccurate on the genetic level as it is on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Certainly some gene forms are found in greater frequency in some populations than others, such as the gene variants governing skin color, and for some diseases, like Tay Sachs and sickle cell. But are these markers of "race”? The mutation that causes sickle cell, we learn, was selected because it conferred resistance to malaria. It is found among people whose ancestors came from parts of the world where malaria was common—central and west Africa, Turkey, Arabia, India, Greece, and Sicily, but not southern Africa.
Yet we have a long history of searching for innate "racial” differences to explain differential group outcomes, be it disease, SAT scores, or athletic performance. In contrast to today's myth of innate black athletic superiority, one hundred years ago many whites felt that high African American disease and mortality rates were caused not by poverty, poor sanitation, and Jim Crow but because black people were inherently infirm and destined to die out. When influential Prudential Insurance Company statistician Frederick Hoffman compared death and disease rates between white and black people in 1896, he attributed the disparities to a "heritable race trait” among Negroes, ignoring the impact of poverty, poor sanitation, and overcrowding on health and mortality.
Today, it is still popular to attribute group differences in performance to innate "racial” traits. In "The Difference Between Us,” many of our common myths about race—such as the "natural” advantages of black athletes, or the musical abilities of Asians—are taken apart.
Episode 2: "The Story We Tell”
All is race; there is no other truth. — Benjamin Disraeli
But it's true that race has always been with us, right? Wrong. Ancient peoples stigmatized "others” on the grounds of language, custom, class, and especially religion, but they did not sort people into races.
"The Story We Tell” traces the origins of the racial idea to the European conquest of the Americas and to the American slave system, the first ever where all the slaves shared a physical trait: dark skin.
James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University, explains it this way: "They found what they considered an endless labor supply. People who could be readily identified and so when they ran away they couldn't melt into the population like Native Americans could. People who knew how to grow tobacco, people who knew how to grow rice. They found the ideal, from their standpoint, the ideal labor source.”
Ironically, it was not slavery but freedom—the revolutionary new idea of liberty and the natural rights of man—that led to the ideology of white supremacy.
Robin D.G. Kelley, Chair of the History Department at New York University, raises the conundrum haunting our founders: "The problem that they had to figure out is how can we promote liberty, freedom, democracy on the one hand, and a system of slavery and exploitation of people who are non-white on the other?”
James Horton illuminates the story that helped reconcile that contradiction: "The way you do that is to say, ‘Yeah, but you know there is something different about these people. This whole business of inalienable rights, that's fine, but it only applies to certain people.'” It was not a coincidence that Thomas Jefferson, the apostle of freedom and a slaveholder, was the first American public figure to articulate a theory speculating upon the "natural” inferiority of Africans.
Similar logic rationalized the taking of Indian lands. When the "civilized” Cherokee were forcibly removed from their homes in Georgia to west of the Mississippi in 1838, one in four died in what became known as "The Trail of Tears.” President Andrew Jackson defended Indian removal. It wasn't greed causing the Indians to "disappear,” but the inevitable fate of an inferior people established "in the midst of a superior race.”
By mid-19th century, with the help of new "scientific” studies, racial difference had become the accepted "common-sense” wisdom of white America. Race explained everything from individual behavior to the fate of human societies. It conveniently justified manifest destiny and American annexation of the Philippines. In the new monthly magazines of the late 19th century and at the remarkable indigenous people's displays at the 1904 World's Fair celebrating the centennial of Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase, we can see how American popular culture reinforced racial explanations for American progress and power, imprinting ideas of racial difference and white superiority deeply into our minds. "The Story We Tell” is an eye-opening tale of how deep and enduring social inequalities came to be rationalized as natural, reflecting not our social practices and public policies but nature's way.
Episode 3: "The House We Live In”
"Virginia law defined a black person as a person with 1/16th African ancestry. Florida defined a black person as a person with 1/8th African ancestry. Alabama said, ‘You are black if you got any African ancestry at all.' But you know what this means? You can walk across a state line and literally, legally change race. Now what does race mean under those circumstances? You give me the power, I can make you any race I want you to be, because it is a social, political construction.” — James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American History, George Washington University
But if race doesn't exist biologically, what is it? And should it matter? The final episode, "The House We Live In,” is the first film on race to focus not on individual attitudes and behavior but on how our institutions leave different groups differently advantaged. Its subject is the "unmarked” race, white people. The show makes visible the benefits that quietly and often invisibly accrue to white people, not always because of merit or hard work, but because our laws, courts, customs, and perhaps most pertinently, segregated neighborhoods, racialize opportunity.
The film begins by looking at the massive immigration from eastern and southern Europe early in the 20th century. Italians, Hebrews, Greeks and other ethnics were considered by many as separate races. Their "whiteness” had to be won.
But who was "white?” The 1790 Naturalization Act had limited naturalized citizenship to "free, white persons.” In 1915, Takeo Ozawa, a Japanese immigrant who had attended the University of California, appealed the rejection of his citizenship application. He argued that his skin was a white as any "white” person. But he also argued that race shouldn't matter—what mattered most was one's beliefs. The Supreme Court ruled against him, saying that Ozawa may be white but he was not Caucasian, and according to scientific evidence only Caucasians could be white people.
Several months later, Bhagat Singh Thind, a South Asian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran, seeing his opening in the wake of Ozawa, petitioned for citizenship, presenting evidence that scientists classified Indians as Caucasians. The Court, refuting its own reasoning in Ozawa said Thind may well be Caucasian but he wasn't "white.” Petition denied.
After WWII, all-white suburbs like Levittown popped up around the country, built with the help of new federal policies that directed government guaranteed loans to white homeowners. Real estate practices and Federal Housing Administration regulations (including red-lining, which originated as explicit government policy) kept non-whites out. In moving to these segregated suburbs, Italians, Jews and other European ethnics, once considered "not quite white,” blended together and reaped the advantages of whiteness, including the accumulation of equity and wealth as their homes increased in value. Yet those opportunities for asset accumulation and upward mobility were denied many communities of color. Of the $120 billion of housing underwritten by the federal government between 1932 and 1964, less than 2% went to non-whites.
Today, the net worth of the average black family is about 1/8 that of the average white family. Much of that net worth derives from the value of the family's residence. As homes get passed from family to family through generation after generation, the real legacy of race is felt. The houses in predominantly white areas sell for much more than those in black, Hispanic or integrated neighborhoods, and so power, wealth and advantage—or the lack of it—are passed down from parent to child. The starting line for the next generation is drawn at different points on the field. Surprising new studies reveal that the performance gap in test scores, graduation rates, welfare usage and other measures between white and black people disappear once this "family wealth gap” is taken into account. This is one reason why color-blind policies that pretend race doesn't exist is not the same thing as creating equality. It is why Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the Bakke decision, "To get beyond racism we must first take account of race. There is no other way.”
California Newsreel, founded in 1968, is among the country's oldest non-profit documentary production and distribution centers. RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION is available on video for educational use (no home video) from California Newsreel at www.newsreel.org or toll-free at 877-811-7495. An engaging and content-rich companion website at PBS.org allows viewers to explore the science, history and sociology of race in greater detail and provides activities and lesson plans for teachers.
A companion website to the series will launch on April 10, 2003 (http://www.pbs.org/race). This comprehensive and unique website invites visitors to test their "Race IQ,” confront their own ideas about race and embark on an in-depth investigation of its history and many meanings today. More than just a recap of the series, the RACE website provides a multidisciplinary and interactive learning experience for viewers and non-viewers alike. Major funding for the website was provided by the Ford Foundation and PBS.
Major funding for RACE—THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION was provided by the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund. Additional funding provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Alejandro and Leila Zaffaroni, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, the Akonadi Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nu Lambda Trust.
CREDITS And "CAST”
RACE — The Power of an Illusion
Creator and Executive Producer Larry Adelman Co-Producer Jean Cheng Field Producer Natatcha Estébanez Narrator CCH Pounder Original Music Claudio Ragazzi
Episode 1: "The Difference Between Us” Written, Produced and Directed by Christine Herbes-Sommers Editors Chuck Scott Andrea Williams Associate Producer Sandra Haller
Episode 2: "The Story We Tell” Written, Produced and Directed by Tracy Heather Strain Editor Randall MacLowry Associate Producer Jennifer Pearce
Episode 3: "The House We Live In” Written, Producer and Director Llewellyn M. Smith Editor Bernice Schneider Associate Producer Julia Elliott
Featured Interviewees, in order of appearance:
Episode 1: "The Difference Between Us”
Pilar Ossorio, Microbiologist and Assistant Professor of Law and Medical Ethics, University of Wisconsin Law School Richard Lewontin, Alexander Agassiz emeritus professor of Zoology and Biology, Harvard University Alan Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Hampshire College Joseph Graves, Jr., Visiting Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Emory-Riddle University Evelynn Hammonds, Professor of History of Science and Afro-American Studies, Harvard University Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, Harvard University [deceased] Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor, Medical Genetics and Genome Sciences, University of Washington Eric Nisbet-Brown, M.D.
DNA WORKSHOP Scott Bronson, workshop teacher, DNA Learning Lab, Cold Spring Harbor Labs
Episode 2: "The Story We Tell”
Robin D.G. Kelley, Chair, Department of History, New York University Theda Purdue, Professor of Native American History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Paul Finkelman, Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law, Tulsa University James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University and director of the Afro-American Communities Project of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Ira Berlin, University Professor of History, University of Maryland; President, Organization of American Historians 2003 Scott Malcomson, author, One Drop of Blood: American Misadventures of Race George Fredrickson, Robinson emeritus Professor of History, Stanford University Audrey Smedley, Professor of Anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University Mia Bay, Professor of History, Rutgers University Reginald Horsman, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Richard Allen, educator, Cherokee Nation Mae Ngai, Professor of History, University of Chicago Matthew Guterl, Fellow, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Brown University Lee Baker, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Duke University Evelynn Hammonds, Professor of History of Science and Afro-American Studies, Harvard University Robert Rydell, Chair, Department of History, Montana State University
Episode 3: "The House We Live In”
Joseph Graves, Jr., Visiting Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Emory-Riddle Unviersity Alan Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Hampshire College Melvin Oliver, sociologist, author, Black Wealth, White Wealth Mae Ngai, Professor of History, University of Chicago Matthew Jacobson, Professor of American Studies, Yale University Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology, Texas A&M Pilar Ossorio, Professor of Law and microbiologist, University of Wisconsin Law School James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History, George Washington University; director of the African American Communities Project of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History Edith Takeya, daughter of Takao Ozawa john a. powell (sic), Williams Professor of Law, Ohio State University and founder, Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, University of Minnesota Dalton Conley, Professor of Sociology, New York University Beverly Daniel Tatum, psychologist and President of Spelman College
LONG ISLAND RESIDENTS John Juliano, Levittown realtor Herbert and Doris Kalisman, Levittown residents Eugene and Bernice Burnett, Long Island residents Bill Griffith, cartoonist, grew up in Levittown Bernice (Bunny) Frisby, Roosevelt resident Ruth Grefe, Roosevelt resident Charles Winter, Roosevelt resident
Series Creator and Executive Producer Larry Adelman is co-director of California Newsreel, the country's oldest non-profit documentary production and distribution center. He oversees Newsreel's productions and has helped develop dozens of Newsreel releases. Adelman served as writing and editorial consultant for many programs including Marlon Riggs' Black Is…Black Ain't and Color Adjustment. The PBS broadcasts of film he produced or co-produced, including Controlling Interest; The Business of America…; Collision Course; and The Road to Brown, have been singled out by Bill Moyers, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and historian John Hope Franklin, among others for spotlighting and bringing clarity to big questions. Adelman was also co-founder of the annual Schmio Awards for Dubious Advertising Achievements.
Series Narrator CCH Pounder is a veteran performer with numerous film, television and theater credits to her name. Born in Guyana, she currently stars as Detective Claudette Wyms in FX's acclaimed series The Shield. Other television appearances include Emmy-nominated roles in ER and The X-Files, and memorable performances in The West Wing, The Practice, LA Law, and HBO's Disappearing Acts Boycott and the recent Unchained Memories. Her television and cable film credits include Go Tell It On The Mountain (her breakthrough role, opposite Paul Winfield and Ossie Davis) and Booker for PBS. Pounder has also appeared in almost 20 feature films, including Bagdad Cafe, End of Days and Face/Off and she received a Grammy Award nomination for her spoken word album Grow Old With Me: The Best Is Yet to Come.
Producer, Episode One: The Difference Between Us Christine Herbes-Sommers has an unusually diverse production background, having made documentaries and dramatic films and managed extended science and history series. For eight years she's been senior producer and project director of WGBH's educational programming. She recently produced A Biography of America, a 26-part survey course, and she was producer/writer of the 8-part Annenberg series on genetics, The Secret of Life. Her earlier national broadcast credits include the Dupont- and Emmy-winning Joan Robinson: One Woman's Story (1980); the pilot for In Search of Love with Leo Buscaglia (1985); Lights Breaking (1985) about the ethics of genetic engineering; and biographies of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and philosopher Bishop George Berkeley (Emmy nomination).
Producer, Episode Two: The Story We Tell Tracy Heather Strain is a producer, director and writer of documentaries and educational videos, including two films for Blackside's Peabody Award-winning series, I'll Make Me A World: A Century Of African-American Arts. Her other production credits include The Great Depression, America's War On Poverty and Discover: The World Of Science as well as Adrift, an independent film she produced with Tom Curran. Strain is currently developing Sweet Dreams: The Donut Movie, an exploration of the American Dream.
Producer, Episode Three: The House We Live In Llewellyn M. Smith served as Story Editor for PBS' American Experience from 1987 to 1995, where he helped originate, develop and acquire more than 70 programs. From 1995 to 1997, he was Project Director for the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series Africans in America and producer of the final episode, Judgment Day. Mr. Smith has also produced episodes of such PBS series as Eyes On The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1985), From Jumpstreet, A Story Of Black Music (1980), and Jazz: An American Classic (1979). Smith was Senior Producer for Eye on Education, a WGBH-Boston Globe multimedia look at state education reform, and is currently senior producer for the forthcoming American Experience series, Reconstruction.
Field Producer Natatcha Estebanez co-wrote The Blue Diner, an acclaimed feature-length drama. She recently produced and directed 12 short films for PBS's Favorite Poem Project, four films for The Discovery Channel, and an episode of Breakthrough, the six-part PBS series profiling multicultural scientists. Estebanez was Series Producer for WGBH's La Plaza where she produced and directed over 35 documentaries, cultural programs and music specials for local and national broadcast, including En Clave! with host Ruben Blades and Paco de Lucia: Soul of Flamenco.
Series Co-Producer and Web Site Producer Jean Cheng has worked as an associate producer on several public television documentaries including Loni Ding's three-part series, Ancestors in the Americas, and most recently, Born in the U.S.A., an ITVS-funded production about childbirth. She also coordinated broadcast outreach for the Academy Award-nominated and Peabody-winning Regret to Inform (including creation of the broadcast Web site and online memorial Letters from the Heart) and for the Academy Award-winning Maya Lin: A Clear Strong Vision. Cheng is an award-winning filmmaker in her own right, whose works have screened in the U.S. and Asia.
Project Advisors and Consultants Race – The Power of an Illusion benefited from the review and advice of some brilliant scholars who have long wrestled with race from the perspectives of several fields – biology, genetics, history of science, philosophy, evolution and anthropology. Our advisors generously shared their own research and contacts, evaluated our treatments, and reviewed the project during script development, assembly and rough-cut.
We also gathered a corps of scholars for a two and a half day ‘school” held in New York with our production team where they subjected our conceptualization to a rigorous critique and considered contending interpretations and points of view.
We are very much in the debt of all the scholars who gave so generously of their time and thinking. To the extent our series is deficient, it is due entirely to our own shortcomings, not theirs.
Ira Berlin - Distinguished University Professor of History, University of Maryland, is acclaimed for books on slavery and American history (most recently, the Bancroft winning Many Thousands Gone) as readable as they are insightful. He is indispensable to our sorting through the many historiographic controversies of Episode One. But as president of the Organization of American Historians, NEH council member and consultant to series like The Civil War, he is especially concerned with constructing history the public can digest and get excited about.
John Cheng - Commonwealth Assistant Professor of History, George Mason University, bridges disparate disciplines - cultural studies, Asian American history, race relations, and the history of science, technology, and popular culture - to bring a uniquely broad perspective to our consideration of race. He has been a consultant to projects at the Smithsonian Institution and to the President's Initiative on Race: One America. He is also advising our Race Gallery Web Site.
Troy Duster - Director of the American Cultures Center and Chancellor's Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and also Professor of Sociology at New York University, is nationally renowned for his work on the social and racial implications of genetics research. He chaired the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Working Group of the Human Genome Project, was president of the American Sociological Association, and is currently a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Germ-Line Intervention. He is also author of Backdoor to Eugenics and Race: Essays on the Concept and Its Uses in Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Societies.
Alan Goodman – Professor of Anthropology, Hampshire College, studies bones to understand how culture and political economy affect biology – and vice versa. He's the editor (with Thomas Leatherman) of Building a New Biocultural Synthesis, is a founding member of the American Anthropological Association's Commission on Race and provided us much invaluable, initial guidance.
Joseph Graves, Jr. – Visiting Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Embry Riddle University has done extensive work on aging in Drosophila melangoster (the beloved fruit fly of geneticists) and was elected a fellow of the Council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His recent book, The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millenum, is one of the very few comprehensive work on race, human variation and population genetics. He's helping make certain we get our genetics right, especially how human variation manifests on the molecular level and the complex relationship between genotype and phenotype.
Evelynn Hammonds – Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, brings special insight into the history of scientific, medical and socio-political concepts of race. She is helping us understand the interplay of race and science, particularly the rupture of the old racial paradigm. Her latest book is The Logic of Difference: A History of Race in Science and Medicine in the United States (in press). She is also the producer of the RacSci web site, one of the few interdisciplinary race and science sites on the web, and was recently named a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer.
Faye Harrison – Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, brings us an understanding of intellectual history and the intersection of race, gender and class. She wrote the seminal review article, "The Persistent Power of ‘Race” in the Cultural and Political Economy of Racism,” guest edited the American Anthropologist's special issue on race, and was a founder of the American Anthropological Association's Public Education Initiative on Race and Human Variation.
Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Silver Professor of History at New York University, is a distinguished authority on early American history who has authored several acclaimed books about colonial encounters between Native Americans and the English, most recently, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America, a Bancroft Award winner. She has chaired the Council of the Institute of Early American History and Culture and the editorial board of the William and Mary Quarterly. She is helping us make sense of early ideas of difference as Indians and English not only gazed at each other, but presented their own selves to each other as they each attempted to incorporate the other into their own world.
Richard Lewontin – Alexander Agassiz Professor Emeritus of Zoology at Harvard University, is one of the world's most eminent authorities on human diversity. He is past president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and an articulate critic of biological determinism. We've devoured his many celebrated books on evolution and human variation books including Human Diversity, Not in Our Gene, The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, and most recently, The Triple Helix. He was the first to measure the apportionment of human variation among and between populations.
Jonathan Marks – Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, is a molecular anthropologist who has written extensively about race, evolution and genetics. His book Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race and History tackled ideas of race and human variation while What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee takes on many of the misconceptions about genetics and issues of similarity and difference.
Michael Omi – Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, is also the Director of UC Berkeley's Institute for the Study of Social Change. His book Racial Formation in the United States (with Howard Winant) is a seminal text for all those hoping to understand the social and historical forces that give race its changing meanings over time and place, including today.
Pilar Ossorio – Assistant Professor of Law and Medical Ethics, University of Wisconsin, is a bioethicist who combines her law degree with a Ph.D. in microbiology. She was associate director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Director of the Genetics Section of the American Media Associations Institute of Ethics (1997 – 2000), and co-chair of the Germ-line, Genetic Intervention Working Group of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998-99), and on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Microbial and Comparative Genomics. She is helping us make sense of the many confusing studies on race, disease and drug response.
Robert Pollack - Professor of biology and former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University, worked for years with James Watson, co-discover of DNA. He now explores the social implications of medical and genetics research as director of Columbia's Center for the Study of Science and Religion. His seven books include Signs of Life: The Language and Meanings of DNA and The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith .
Audrey Smedley – Professor of Anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University, has spent several decades investigating not the evolution of our species but the evolution of how we think about our species. We have been relying on her landmark book, Race in North America: Origins and Evolution of a Worldview, a rare synthetic history of the race concept. She is author of the American Anthropological Association's position paper on ‘race,' and the new millennial edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on ‘Race.'
Patricia Williams – Professor of Law at Columbia University, noted author and social critic. Her influential essays on race, gender and legal theory include The Alchemy of Rights and Wrongs, Seeing a Color Blind Future, and the column "Diary of a Mad Law Professor” for The Nation. She is a MacArthur "Genius” Fellow and is helping us understand how race is not just a vestige from the past but is produced and reproduced today.
Genetics Consultant – Andrew Berry, Ph.D. Andrew Berry is a research associate at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and teaches evolutionary biology at Harvard, including the wildly popular course on genetics and human diversity that Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould pioneered and team-taught. Berry is always thinking about ways to make clear arcane and abstract science and has won teaching awards at Harvard, Princeton and Oxford. Perhaps that's because he's also a writer. While his papers on the Drosophila melangoster (the beloved fruit fly of geneticists) are published in science journals like Genetics, he's equally at home popularizing science in the New York Observer, Nature, The London Review of Books and the on-line journal, Slate. Most recently, he is the editor of Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russell Wallace Anthology.
- Appear in the series
John Cheng, Commonwealth Assistant Professor of History, George Mason University
Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor of Sociology, New York University, and former Chair of the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Working Group of the Human Genome Project.
Barbara Fields, Professor of History, Columbia University
Neil Gotanda, Professor of Law at St. John's University
Evelynn Hammonds, Professor of History of Science, Harvard University
Kenneth Kidd, Professor of Genetics, Psychiatry and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University
Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Silver Professor of History at New York University
Edmund Morgan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University
Leith Mullings, Presidential Professor of Anthropology at The City University of New York Graduate School
Robert Pollack - Professor of Biology and former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University
Clara Rodriguez, Professor of Sociology at Fordham University
Audrey Smedley, Professor of Anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University
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