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What do I think of when I think race??

RACE Exhibit
Science Museum
St. Paul, Minnesota
3/9/2007


I attended the RACE exhibit at the Science museum of Minnesota, I walked into the exhibit and the first activity that I came across was a booth that had the words The meaning of white; what is white privilege? on the top. I figured this would be a good starting point since this is a topic that both frustrates and enlightens me. It was a study done by Doug Hartmann to discover what people know and how they feel about white privilege. I have always taken the stance, since I am a suburban white girl, that I am no more privileged than the next person. However, white sitting at the booth I decided to actively participate in hopes that I would be able to understand this subject better. There was a phone receiver where you could learn more about the subject and I did just that. The biggest thing that I took away from the study was the following statement, “White people are more willing and able to talk about African American disadvantage than white privilege because they are forced to recognize inequality- however, say this is not ‘our’ problem.? After I heard this statement I immediately because conscious of the fact hat I choose not to see the despair that most minorities face and when I do recognize it, I always declare there is nothing that ‘I can do’ about it. I spend most of my time defending how hard my parents worked for what we have and that we haven’t been ‘given’ anything we didn’t deserve. In reality, I feel if we took the energy that we spend protecting our positions and put it towards change we could all truly begin to make a difference.

I moved on to another booth entitled Who is white? This was a survey on your opinion of who is considered white and who is not. The options for answers were white, not white, unsure. After a answering this question on a list of approximately 25 cultures/nations I received these results; “American scientists say ‘white is a “squishy category? and point out the variability of race categories worldwide. The question who is and who is not white has changed overtime in the U.S.- as to reasons why notion of distinct races is not scientifically valid.? I thought that this was interesting because we, as humans, constructed the suggestion of race and yet there is no clear cut description of what constitutes each category, so why ever have it at all.
As I continued walking through the exhibit a quote hanging from the ceiling caught my eye and I couldn’t help but reflect on it. “How can it be that so many well-meaning white people have never thought about race when so few blacks pass a single day with out being reminded about it?? –Patricia Williams. After reading this, I was aggravated because we all work for equality, no matter what race, I feel that singling out white people and stating that race isn’t an influencer, is in itself discriminatory, Personally, I feel as though race has played a substantial role in my life just as it has anyone else. Who gets to decide what discrimination is valid and hurtful and what isn’t? And being white doesn’t always present itself as a privilege and in fact in can be just as much of an “obstacle? as it can be to be not white.
The final booth I focused on was Separate and Unequal. There was a quote that stated “[race] plays an important role in our lives.? This booth concentrated on the ever changing roles and laws that this country has built. I can not argue that favoritism hasn’t been an issue in our culture. For example, in 1854 the California Supreme Court “ruled in People v. Hall, that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder by a white man is not admissible in a court of law.? This is the most blatant of bigotry however, as the country progressed so have the laws. Laws of this nature would and should not be tolerated in today’s society. Nevertheless, we need to keep moving forward rather than progressing backwards by defending how “our people,? whether white, black, Asian or Albanian, have been discriminated against and focus on how we can equal the playing field for all by not letting the color of our skin determine who we are.
In conclusion, the final quote that received my attention was “Most of the benefits of being white can be obtained without ever doing anything. Personally, whites are given the privileges of a racists system, even if they are not personally racist.? –John Powell. It is my contention that though this may be unjustly true in a handful of instances there is no generic rule that states because your skin is white you will receive everything you ever need and will never be discriminated against, because this unquestionably isn’t the case. In fact, I believe that every person, despite their race, will face challenges- there are no free passes in this world.