Summary: This PBS documentary uses a political frame to discuss race and politics in America, taking advantage of the political significance of the election of President Barack Obama to set the background for a discussion on the history and politics of race in the United States. Race 2012 uses a nice blend of known academic scholars in political science and sociology, authors, activists, and political figures to provide a narrative on race in America today. The film provides perspectives on questions such as: 1) How do we define a racist or racism? 2) What does a changing minority demographic and a decreasing white demographic mean for America? 3) How do political parties tailor their political platform around an implicit racial narrative? and 4) How are non-Black minorities racialized and positioned within a bifurcated white/black racial hierarchy? Other important themes include contrasting early 20th century discourses around government assistance, which were framed as “nation building” policies and largely benefited whites, with current discourses around government assistance (or “welfare”) which are framed as “handouts” and are believed to largely benefit minorities, despite many whites also receiving these entitlements. The relevance of race in the construction of both a Republican and Democratic party identity is discussed in light of the changing racial demographic in America and persistent explicit and implicit anti-minority sentiments. This documentary would be a nice addition to broad discussions of race in the classroom as it provides both a historical and contemporary perspective on race. It also illustrates the ways that seemingly “race neutral” policies get coded with racialized meanings, and how these racial codes benefit and stigmatize racial groups differently. The documentary can also be useful for more specific discussions on race, demographic shifts, and political narratives, and the implications of these shifting demographics on the future of U.S. electoral politics.
Submitted By: Shanna Brewton-Tiayon, Doctoral Student, University of Maryland