“By far the best documentary series on race of the last decade.”

Troy Duster, former President, American Sociological Association

Larry Adelman was Series Executive Producer of RACE - The Power of an Illusion and co-director of California Newsreel.

Statement from the Executive Producer

RACE—The Power of an Illusion was first broadcast and released back in 2003. The three-part documentary series asks a question so basic it’s rarely raised: What is this thing called ‘race’? What we discovered was that many of our conventional assumptions about race—for instance, that the world's peoples can be divided biologically along racial lines—are wrong. Yet the costs of racism are very real, and can even have biological consequences.

Since its release, RACE—The Power of an Illusion has become one of the country’s most widely used documentaries ever. 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.

The research since the series’ release makes clear its continuing salience. Thanks to the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, this new companion website allows visitors to explore some of these new findings and to enrich their own screenings of the series.

We hope the series, along with this new website, can help you clear away the biological mythmaking and leave starkly visible the underlying social, economic, and political structures that disproportionately channel advantages and opportunities to white people. Perhaps then we can shift the conversation from discussing diversity and respecting cultural difference to tackling racism and building a more just and equitable society for all.

Larry Adelman
Series Executive Producer
October 2018

Episode one
Episode 1: 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
Episode 2: 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
Episode 3: 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.