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RACE

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Today, Wednesday, April 18, 2007 I attended the RACE exhibit at the Science Museum in St. Paul. One of the main things that stuck out in my mind was the many billboards that showed the history of whites and how whites are endowed with an “invisible backpack� of unearned privilege. I think that the unearned privilege of whites is extremely prevalent in our society, as exemplified by these billboards. It made me think more about how many aspects of my life are made easier for me just because I am a white female, and then I tried to imagine what life would be like if I were a white male or a person of color. As McIntosh states in her essay White Privilege and Male Privilege (Feminist Frontiers 9-15), “I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious� (10). We are taught to recognize the disadvantages of people of color, but we are never taught to recognize our unearned advantages due to the color of our skin. Maybe we need to start recognizing those privileges in order to better appreciate all that is available to us in our society, and it will help us address and hopefully change the situation of people of color.

Another facet of the exhibit that impacted me was the station where there were flaps with different pictures of people on top and their respective races underneath. I think this exposed the flaws in racial stereotypes, especially since I incorrectly labeled many of the pictures. There are so many categories of each race. For example, there is a clear difference between the “light-skinned� African-Americans and the “dark-skinned� African-Americans. Sometimes these variations within races causes there to be discrimination within such races. For example, in Frontlines and Borders: Identity Thresholds for Latinas and Arab American Women in Feminist Frontiers (17-30), Lopez and Hasso share the story of Teresa, a light-skinned Chicana, who was called a “white bitch� at a party (21). Teresa was more offended by being called white than being called a bitch because she was being stereotyped based on her skin color and was not recognized by the race she identifies with.

The board with the high school mascots was especially interesting. The exhibit reminded me of how our society ostracizes American Indians and labels them as violent or drunks. There were pictures of different Indian tribes that were used as mascots by different high schools across the country. It was easy to tell how the use of the tribes can be and is seen as offensive by each Indian tribe. I think this conflict could be solved if permission was granted by each tribe and guidelines were outlined so that the tribe was represented in ways acceptable to them. Otherwise, high schools can simply change their mascots to animals or non-denominational people. For example, my first high school’s mascot was the Patriots. We actually ran into trouble with that because the PTO thought it was too violent, especially since our mascot featured a gun. My second high school’s mascot was the Ramblers, which resembled a homeless person who rambles from place to place. Any time one thing is used to represent another, problems arise in translation.

The RACE exhibit definitely opened my eyes more to the problems with race in American society. I now have a greater appreciation for people of all color than I did before. What really tied the knot for me was where you were able to see the skin of different races under a microscope, and it all looked the same. This reminded me that deep down, we are all human beings, and deserve to be treated accordingly.