The Construction of Race: Workshop with Dr. Khyati Joshi

Dr. Joshi joined us again–this time for a presentation on the concept of race—the social construction of race, the biology myths, and how our institutions and culture continue to shape race in ways that privileges whiteness.

She shared with us a history of legal decisions and policies that demonstrate the ever-changing definition of whiteness used to include or exclude various peoples in American citizenship. We also learned about the ways in which people relied on false scientific claims to support their beliefs about race and to codify racial definitions that have had long-lasting impact on citizenship, mobility, wealth accumulation, jobs, who gets to live where, and who gets to enter the US.

We started the evening with an overview and then Dr. Joshi shared a portion of the 3rd episode of Race: The Power of an Illusion–a 3 part documentary that questions the idea of race as biology and demonstrates the real and harmful effects of the myth of race in the US. Part 3–The House We Live In– focuses on how our institutions shape and create race. Attendees addressed some questions together about their understanding of race and its impact on citizenship and the privilege of whiteness.

Dr. Joshi followed the video with an overview of several Supreme Court decisions and the language found in the Fair Housing Act to demonstrate how different groups became ‘racialized’ by definition depending on the needs of the country at the moment. These decisions and their results (segregated communities and schools, unequal access to social benefits like mortgages, etc.) fed many closely held beliefs about race. Many workshop attendees noted that they learned new information about how race has been constructed over time and the degree to which our laws and practices have privileged whiteness.

Watch the entire Race: The Power of an Illusion series.


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