RACE: Are We So Different? Award Winning Exhibition opened at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on April 22nd, 2017. It will be available until October 22, 2017. I had the opportunity to be a part of the UNC TV’s RACE Exhibit Black Issue Forum event on April 25th. We had 40 minutes to tour the featured exhibit and then we were led in a guided conversation where we recorded a 20-30 minute discussion with Debra Noel and two of the museums trained “Cultural Conversations” facilitators.
The first thing that stood out to me was the way RACE exhibit addressed racism from three different perspectives. There is a historical, scientific and personal experience take on it. It really makes you open your eyes and see things in a different light. I even questioned certain things that I believed to be true. In the exhibit you are sure to see thought provoking pieces that force you to dig deeper for understanding. In one area it mentioned a time when racism didn’t exist and it was hard to imagine.
There was a piece on “Creating Race” where it states that race wasn’t found in nature but made by people in power. Racial classification provided a way to justify privilege and oppression by making inequality appear to be the result of natural differences. “Race was never just a matter of categories. It was a matter of creating hierarchies.” –Robin D. G. Kelley, historian, Columbia University. This of course got me to thinking. I’ve never thought anyone was born racist and do believe it’s a learned behavior.
I went home that evening and decided to ask my youngest son some questions about race. Here is how our dialogue went… Me: Jo what do you know about race? Jo: What’s race? Me: Our biological and genetic makeup. Not to be confused with ethnicity. Jo: What’s ethnicity? Me: Our ancestry and cultural makeup. Mommy was born here like you, but Grandma and Grandpa were born in Jamaica. We have African, German & Asian ancestors. Me: What do you say if someone asks what you are?
Jo: a human! Me: What do you identify as? Jo: Jo! Me: Do you notice the differences between you and some of your friend’s skin tone? Jo: Yes, now can you stop asking me questions. Me: Okay, Geez! This conversation made me question if I have failed or am doing awesome at “Momming”! My son is in 2nd grade and hasn’t really had to deal with racial tension or issues to my knowledge. I always try to keep my children culturally grounded with lots of diversity to help dismantle a variety of barriers that exist.
I plan to take my son to see the RACE exhibit and gently make him aware of some of the issues that are faced in today’s society or that he may face as a young African American Male down the road. RACE is a great exhibit that gives you interactive displays, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs and multimedia presentations to start a great conversation. You’ll have intriguing questions that you’ll want to find the answers to like the science behind the anatomy of skin color.
Does race play a part in your daily life? If so, how does it affect you?
Visit the RACE: Are we so different? Exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences before it leaves. Admission is FREE even though you need to register for a ticket. The UNC-TV Black Issues forum will air on Sunday May 7, 2017 at 11:30 am on UNC-TV and then again on Monday May 8, 2017 at 5:00 pm. It will be available shortly after on the website to stream. I can’t wait to visit again with my family and hear their thoughts on the exhibit. RACE can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about and this is a great conversation piece. Join the discussion. Start somewhere…