Hello, my name is Paul Fleming. I'm a faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. This video is about answering the question of who invented race, racism, and white supremacy. When we start thinking about this, it's important to note that race is not biological. It was in fact invented. A lot of folks struggle with this idea because they think when they see somebody's skin color or facial features, what they're looking at is their biology. But in fact, race is something that has been invented and socially constructed over time. It was humans that created the idea of race, not biology. Scientists agree that there is no biological basis for race. The Human Genome Project, which was a massive undertaking map the genes of Homo sapiens or humans. They found that there was no distinct genetic markers for what we think of as races and that there was actually more genetic variation within race than between. So what does this mean? It means that if we look at a group of Black Americans, there's actually more genetic variation within that group of Black Americans than we'll find between black and white Americans, for example. It also means that there's really no genetic tests that we can do to determine what somebody's race is. All of that is because race is a social constructed or in other words, it was invented by humans. Ideas of race and who is considered white have shifted over time and vary by socio-political context. What that means is who is considered white and who is considered black is going to be very different in 2021 than it was 200 years ago. As an example of this, Irish immigrants in the US were initially considered to be a different race. This image you see here is a depiction or a drawing that tries to exaggerate the differences between an Irish person and an English person. The idea here was to emphasize and communicate these differences in races between Irish and English and emphasize the superiority of English immigrants. Another example of this is that somebody considered to be black in the US may in fact be a different race in a different country. As an example of this, in South Africa versus the United States, ideas of who counts as black or who counts as white are different than they are here in the US. That's because different societies have different definitions or how they define different racial categories. But even though race is not biological, it doesn't mean that it's not real. It has very real impacts because of the way in which it creates social hierarchies within our different societies across the globe, and particularly in the US. But if race isn't biological then who exactly invented race? We need to actually go back 600 years or even further to really get to the origins of this. In the 15th century, European kings were trying to build wealth of their kingdoms by extracting resources from other regions. This is when we can think about the age of explorers or people really sailing on ships to new lands. Slavery at the time was common, but it was not yet based on race or ancestry. We saw that people from Europe, Africa, and Asia were all enslaved. Enslavers thought of enslaved people as inferior to their own group. But again, often times this was not based on a racial category, but rather it might be based on a religion or where a group is from. At this point you're probably wondering, well, who was it that invented race? We can actually trace its origins to a single source. Back in 1453, the King of Portugal was engaging in these things of trying to extract wealth and resources from other lands. He commissioned an author to glorify the Portuguese who were enslaving Africans at the time. This author was named Gomez de Zurara. In the book that Gomez de Zurara wrote, he lumped light and dark skin Africans into one category rather than referring to them as a certain religion or ethnicity. He claimed that this group of Africans were beasts. This of course was despite evidence of advanced African kingdoms at the time like the Mali Empire. He also wrote that enslaving African people was necessary to bring them closer to Christianity, which of course was the religion in Portugal at the time. De Zurara's writings became popular because it provided justification for labor exploitation of Africans. Remember at the time there weren't that many books or other resources and so this book had a heavy influence on people's vision of what the world looked like at the time, and particularly that vision of who Africans were. As more and more European countries beyond Portugal sought wealth created from enslaving African people, this narrative of Africans as beasts stuck because it really justified the exploitation that Europeans were undertaking. Now if we fast forward a bit to the Age of Enlightenment, there was a strong emphasis on categorization. Emerging Scientists were really trying to categorize different types of plants, different types of animals and they turn their attention also to humans. In the 1700s, academic scientists built on the classifications that was created by Gomez de Zurara and other Europeans earlier. Of course, that intent was by wealthy elites for exploitation. The academic scientists at the time created the races of man and they considered this really a biological fact. That idea has endured over the centuries. These scientists at the time were talking about races of man, such as the Caucasoid race, the Mongoloid race, the Negroid race. This image on the screen really demonstrates how people were thinking about these different groups of people as distinct and different and that there was a hierarchy within those groups. Of course, this idea has been thoroughly debunked since then. However, the idea still remain to this day. When we think about how race was invented, there are some key takeaways. First, the important thing to recognize is that there first was a desire for wealth through labor exploitation. That was what came first. Then after that, racist ideas such as African people are beasts were invented to justify that exploitation so that folks could build wealth. It was not the racist ideas that caused race-based slavery. It was rather a desire for money and power by the European kingdoms. Science further entrenched those ideas of different groups or different races by reflecting these racist ideas and considering them as biological differences. These origins of race and racism are important to consider as we move into the next sections of this course.