What's Race Got to Do with It?
Sorting People – Race Is Not Biological

This exercise can be used as both an icebreaker and a lesson on how we can be divided into different biological groups depending on the criteria we use. NOTE: this exercise is not meant to demonstrate that we are all the same or that races don’t matter. The point is that racial differences are not biologically based but socially constructed. This activity can help spark a deeper discussion about the root causes of the disparities raised in the video. Allow 20-30 minutes for the activity and discussion.

Use the following list of inherited, biological traits to divide people into different groups (sort everyone first using one trait, then resort them using another, and so on, to show how the groups change depending on the criteria):

  • hair color
  • blood types (A, B, O, A/B)
  • whether or not your tongue curls
  • lactose tolerance or intolerance (ability to digest milk products)
  • left-handedness or right-handedness
  • fingerprint types (loop, whorl, arch or tented arch)
  • skin color (compare the inside of your upper arm)
    Follow-up questions:
  • Does the composition of the groups remain consistent from one criterion to the next?
  • Is there a clear line of demarcation between groups or is the boundary more gradual or blurred?
  • Are these criteria any less arbitrary than the physical characteristics we associate with race?
  • Does this exercise mean that race doesn’t matter?

Visit www.pbs.org/race for more activities and games on misconceptions about biology and race.

 


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