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The Race Exhibit!

I attended the race exhibit at the Science Museum in St. Paul on Saturday, February 10th. I went to the science museum with the Anthropology club of the University of Minnesota. The race exhibit was created to examine the concept of race and its implications in society. It has had a long and popular run at the Science Museum in St. Paul. I attended with my friend Ben, and we found the exhibit insightful and articulate, though far from comprehensive. Although the exhibit was small, it was extremely concise considering the multitude of material surrounding the question of race. The function of the race exhibit was to deconstruct race and to blur the lines of racial difference.

One quote that stood out to me read:
“The things we identify as racial markers mean nothing unless they are given social meaning.? Melvin Oliver

The race exhibit was relevant to gender studies because both race and gender operate as social constructions. In her piece, “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender,? Judith Lorber writes:
“As a social institution, gender is one of the major ways that human beings organize their lives? (42).

All people perform their racial identity as well as their gendered identity on a daily basis in their routine activities. The race exhibit supported evidence that race itself is a social construction and a way of organizing and dividing society.

The race exhibit was also relevant to class because it addressed privilege systems and (unearned) white (male) privilege. A sign-post in the exhibit read: “Privilege Lane? and was filled with evidence of privilege based on skin-color in American history.

In her piece, “White Privilege and Male Privilege,? Peggy McIntosh wrote:
“A ‘white’ skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us? (15).

The race exhibit exposed the power structures that design and maintain racial difference and supported the deconstruction of racial borders.

One of my favorite aspects of the race exhibit was a wall of photos in which those pictured answered the question, “Who are you??. Each person’s racial identity was printed under their written response. Not all pictured defined themselves according to their race.

An interactive exhibit that negated the credibility of inherent racial difference was a board of people’s faces with bulbs next to them. There was a board that had statements listed such as, “These people are an A blood-type.? The exhibit was designed so the spectator would push a button on the board and the bulbs would light up to signal the person to whom that statement applied. This exhibit was designed to show commonalities between people of seemingly different “races.?
I found this exhibit both educational and artistic. I was very impressed that the science museum challenged such a controversial topic and took such a liberal stand in their presentation of race. The exhibit itself defied essentialism in regard to racial borders and thus rendered the study of eugenics null and void.