Race: Are We So Different?

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Christine Carpenter

Published on September 10, 2009

  • Description:

    The Race Exhibit is a powerful exhibit that proves just how revolutionary exhibits can be to society. “Race” discusses sensitive issues with factual information, yet its viewers never feel the sensitivity of the issue: instead, people are willing to discuss and address these tough topics with an informed, and sometimes new, point of view.

    The first part of the exhibit states clearly and through scientific data that race, despite what we might have been taught, is purely and simply unscientific. Instead, race is learned, and is purely a societal invention. Having laid the ground work for disproving race’s scientific validity, the exhibit explores the history of race and its affects on society. Nothing is out of the realm of discussion: from the use of American Indians as mascots, to FDA approved drugs for just African Americans, to how the U.S. should ask about a person’s race on the next census. The beauty of the exhibit was in its ability to address these sensitive issues factually, rationally and with a sense of changing how we view the world.

    At one station, the viewer was asked to write on a card his or her own race for others to read: a card read in a child’s handwriting, “I am a 5th grader, and I am just like you.”

Latest Comments (2)

A brilliant exhibit

by Daniel Spock - February 09, 2010

I have to admit that my expectations for RACE were low. I expected something dreary and didactic, maybe a little strident or preachy. But the reviewer above got it right. A straightforward, rational tone, combined with a multiplicity of non-authoritative voices often channeled through familiar contexts (the highschool cafeteria or the census, for some examples) made this exhibit engrossing and relevant. Sure, rules were violated (there are overly long text panels), but you get the main idea very clearly: that race is a cultural construct, not a scientific fact. When I was there, the exhibit was busy with a very diverse group of visitors of all ages. There was alot of pointing and discussing, alot of reading, a high degree of attentiveness. The blending of science, sociology, anthropology and history was also successful as an interdisciplainry approach, one that is worth emulating for other subjects. I think the museum world could use more bold and topical projects like RACE.

Building attendance with opportunities to talk

by Wendy Pollock - April 05, 2011

The Charlotte, NC press is reporting that the RACE exhibition – and its ancillary programs – have contributed to a big increase in attendance. Much of the increase comes from corporations that are using the exhibition and its “Race Exchange” program in diversity training, the paper says, in an article headlined “Museum’s ‘Race’ scores with businesses” – CharlotteObserver.com http://t.co/yQXGA6K

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