An online companion to the award-winning documentary series by California Newsreel discussing the origins, beliefs and consequences of what we call race

episode one
The Difference Between Us
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," the first hour of the series. This episode shows that despite what we've always believed, the world's peoples simply don't come bundled into distinct biological groups. We begin by following a dozen students, including Black athletes and Asian string players, who sequence and compare their own DNA to see who is more genetically similar. 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.
episode two
The Story We Tell
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 according to physical differences. It turns out that the concept of race is a recent invention, only a few hundred years old, and the history and evolution of the idea are deeply tied to the development of the U.S.
episode three
The House We Live In
If race doesn't exist biologically, what is it? And why should it matter? Our final episode, "The House We Live In," 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. We see how benefits quietly and often invisibly accrue to white people, not necessarily because of merit or hard work, but because of the racialized nature of our laws, courts, customs, and perhaps most pertinently, housing.
Why relaunch this series?

john a. powell is a Professor of Law and an expert on race at UC Berkeley

RACE–The Power of an Illusion asks a question so basic it's rarely raised: what is this thing we call race? Since its release in 2003, the series has become one of the most widely used documentaries ever in formal and non-formal education in the US. Millions of people have used the film to scrutinize their own deep-seated beliefs about race and explore how our social divisions are not natural or inevitable, but made. Now, in 2019, the series remains salient and timely.

View the trailer

Larry Adelman is the Executive Producer of RACE - The Power of an Illusion

Themes from the films:
Founding America
Until the Revolutionary period, slavery was an unquestioned "fact of life." It was only when Americans proclaimed the radical new idea that "all men are created equal" that slavery was first challenged as immoral and thus required justification. The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.
Science and Pseudoscience
Not a single characteristic, trait, or gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race, no matter how we divide people. Nevertheless, the idea that race corresponds to biological differences (e.g., traits such as IQ, behavior, propensity for disease, physical appearance) has long shaped public policy and social discourse—and can even lead to biological consequences.
Racial Classification: Who Decides?
Racial and ethnic groups are not an inherent feature of human society, but constructed in different ways that vary according to time, place, and political interests. Mutable and fluid, the history of racial categories reflects not melanin or nationality, but power.
Structured Advantage and Disadvantage
A long history of government policies and private practices has disproportionately channeled power, wealth, status, even health to white people. Even though de jure segregation no longer exists, these practices persist in other forms to this day.
Making Whiteness
Like other racial categories, whiteness is not a biological property, but a changing identity and social position defined by laws, policies, and norms affecting the distribution of resources and power. Considered visible and unmarked, whiteness operates to maintain the status quo in subtle and explicit ways.
The Racial Wealth Gap
Wealth, or net worth, is a vital measure of economic health. Wealth buffers against periods of insecurity, funds risk-taking opportunities, supports retirement, and undergirds intergenerational transfers of opportunity. Government housing policies and private lending practices primarily account for the racial wealth gap, with housing equity attesting for two-thirds of all wealth.
Who Belongs as an American?

In 1790, Congress passed a law declaring that only “free, white” immigrants could become naturalized citizens.  We’ve been fighting over who gets to be an American ever since, with race playing a central role in the debate.