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Science Museum: Race Exhibit

I attended the Race Exhibit this weekend at the Minnesota Science Museum. I was really impressed on the variety of areas of race that were covered. They had little exhibits explaining the science part of race to psychological part to the historical parts. Because I am a science major, I was really fascinated on learning about race and the human body, but also liked how it reflected much of what we have been learning in class and the issues with race today.

The first exhibit I went to had about 20 people’s faces of all different types of races and backgrounds. They asked questions about yourself and then you could see which other people had those traits in common. I was surprised that there was no correlation between race and things like fingerprint pattern, blood type, and height. They explain that traits are inherited independently and that the frequency of a specific trait in a certain population is the result of evolutionary responses to various environmental conditions. A good example would be skin color, one major factor that categorized people, which is related to the intensity of the sun in that area of the world where a group of people lived. I also learned that the geography of the world keeps people apart. Mountains, deserts, and oceans keep people from moving around and mating with other people. Culture also had a great deal in separating people as well.
Another part of the exhibit presented the net worth of the average African American family is about one tenth that of the average white family. This is due to the differing rates of home ownership between these two groups and to the generally lower values of homes blacks own than homes owned by whites and the gap tends to be passed down from parent to child. They also explained that it is much harder for African Americans to get loans approved than it is for whites. I was really interested in the display bounded dollar bills representing the home ownership rates according to the US Census Bureau, where Caucasians and Asians had much higher stacks than the Latinos, African Americans, and others. I also was interested in a large picture of about ten people from different backgrounds. They had plain white t-shirts on with a certain year and then a description on how they were categorized on the US Census for that year. It was interesting to me because the descriptions changed for each year they had. An example would be a woman with the year 1900 Indian, then 1980 Eskimo, and then finally 2000 Alaska Native. I noticed that there are more and more types of races on the Census now then one hundred years ago, but it is still hard to classify someone just on a few choices. The Census race categories basically tell Americans how they are expected to think of themselves and of each other.
I was surprised on how much of the exhibit related to our class discussions. They touched on white privilege, marketing “white? products including toys, television shows, and beauty products, medical research for whites and colored people, and many videos that we have seen in class. It seemed like the biggest question asked throughout the exhibit is “What is race?? There really isn’t a clear-cut answer, but it is society that makes race a distinct category to place people in. It is good for people to know their entire background, and to force society to realize that there really isn’t much of a difference between people of different colors and cultures, and that just because they have dark skin, doesn’t mean they have to be categorized as African American. I think this exhibit was really good because so many people have access to it and it was for all types and ages of people. I would defiantly recommend this for everyone in the class!