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Exhibit Shows New Ways to Look at Race

Exhibit Shows New Ways to Look at Race

Going to the Science Museum of Minnesota was no pleasure trip for Monica Gorde and her four children. The newest attraction, a special exhibit on race, was something she felt they had to see.
Gorde and her adopted children _ three from India, one from Guatemala _ were transfixed as they passed through the exhibit, which argues that differences in skin color are insignificant.
"My 11-year-old son cannot talk about race," Gorde said. "I think this visit has been emotionally draining for him. He's off hiding right now."
The "Race: Are We So Different?" exhibit that debuted here last week will visit museums around the country over the next five years, including stops in Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Boston. Its creators hope it will help change the way people talk about, view and learn about race.
"We need to see race as a social, historical concept," said Alan Goodman, president of the American Anthropological Association, which conceived the exhibit. "It no longer makes sense to see it as a biological, genetic concept. Race is not a genetic concept."
"I hope over time that we can have an impact where we raise the conversation about race to where it's accurate," said Yolanda Moses, who was president of the American Anthropological Association from 1995 to 1997, when the group originated the idea for the exhibit amid President Clinton's national Dialogues on Race.
The exhibit aims to plumb biological, historical and contemporary dimensions of race. The biological aspects try to show how race is only one among countless human variations, with biology not the determining factor in a population's skin color.
"Sunlight and vitamins determine our skin color, not race," reads the header on one display.
The notion that people of different races are biologically different has largely been discredited by mainstream science in recent years, Goodman said _ though it's still possible to find pockets of disagreement.
"People will have different points of view and we will welcome them," said Robert Garfinkle, the exhibit project leader for the Science Museum.
Other displays show how race has shaped centuries of human experience, and continues to be deeply ingrained in most facets of society. Stacks of fake dollar bills, widely ranging in height, show the different average income of whites, Asians, blacks and Latinos.
"Race was not found in nature but made by people in power," reads one bit of display copy. "Racial classification provided a way to justify privilege and oppression by making inequality appear to be the result of natural differences."
Organizers don't expect they can overturn several centuries' worth of perceptions about race with one museum exhibit. But, "because we created it _ that means we can uncreate it," Moses said.
Gorde is willing.
"As a white woman _ or as my kids call me, pinkish-gray _ who is raising nonwhite kids, it's tremendously important that I identify ways in which we can all get past it," Gorde said.
The exhibit is scheduled to run at the St. Paul museum through May 6.
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On the Net:
http://www.smm.org/race/


Updated : 2021-07-27 08:31 GMT+08:00