College News

Anthropology, History Professors Producing Podcast About Race

From the October 2018 Desktop News | Dr. Jim Bindon, a professor emeritus in the department of anthropology, and Dr. Erik Peterson, an assistant professor in the department of history, started a podcast called “Speaking of Race” with former UA anthropology faculty member Dr. Jo Weaver in 2017, after realizing that a large portion of the population was receiving incorrect information regarding race.

First and foremost, Bindon says that most people don’t realize that the genetic differences in humans are neither sharp enough nor deep enough to be considered biological races. Rather, our so-called “races” are social constructions—so much so that in 1997, the U.S. changed the number of races from four to five.

“In spite of race not being biologically valid in humans, our socially constructed races have had devastating impacts throughout U.S. history including slavery, immigration restriction, and lower life expectancies to name only a few,” Bindon said.

Wanting to shed light on the realities and myths of race, Peterson, Bindon, and Weaver decided to create a multi-discipline podcast that would explore both modern and historical conversations about the concept. With more than 25 episodes thus far, the podcast has discussed race in ancient Egypt, the Human Genome Project, athletics, and the effects of race in specific countries and cultures like Brazil, India, and Haiti. The cross-disciplinary coverage of these subjects gives a new take on the conversations surrounding race.

“There are plenty of people who are talking critically about race, but there aren’t many people doing it with a combination of backgrounds that the three of us have,” Weaver said. “That means that we can cover where these ideas came from, the complex biological stuff that most people aren’t sinking their teeth into, and a critical look at present-day manifestations.”

In addition to everyday listeners, “Speaking of Race” has reached collegiate classrooms across the nation, allowing students to hear a new perspective on race and its implications. It is also popular among upper-level science organizations, including the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, which recently invited the group to give their upcoming holiday lecture.

Bindon, who previously taught a class about race, takes pieces of his curriculum and brings them into every episode, something that he thinks his former students would appreciate.

“This stuff is not ever going to go away,” Bindon said. “We need to be educated about it, and we need to be educating people about it. The most important thing for me is that people understand that this is an issue that’s centuries old and an issue that’s going to be around for centuries.”

Peterson and Weaver agree, saying that the vast amounts of incorrect information being shared is confusing, and they hope the podcast helps clarify what is real and what is not.

“Between the deluge of misinformation coming from every other type of media and the common talk between people, this is a tiny push in the opposite direction,” Peterson said. “It seems to me that the only way it’s going to be able to make a difference is if many voices are sharing the information.”

The podcast’s next episode about the myths surrounding race and intelligence will premiere in October. For more information or to listen to previous episodes, visit speakingofrace.ua.edu/podcast.