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Race Exhibit

For my scholarly event assignment, I went to the Race Exhibit on Thursday, April 5, 2007 at the Science Museum in St. Paul. Though I had wanted to go for awhile, I ended going with the kids from my work. I work as a tutor for the Ginew Golden Eagles after school program at the Minnesota American Indian Center in Minneapolis. The kids that I work with range from ages 10-18 and are taught things about their native culture through this after school program. I did not realize going into this particular field trip that I would learn as much from the actual exhibit as I would from the kids reactions to what we saw.

One of the first exhibits that we stopped to see was one about white privilege. I knew about the meaning of white privilege from class readings and discussions and felt so uncomfortable standing there as the only white person in a small group of Native American kids. While I was doing my best to read the studies and facts, the kids did not have any interest in participating. Though I did my best to encourage participation, I felt like a hypocrite and racist telling these kids to read about the privileges I am given merely because of my race. Standing there attempting to learn and encourage the kids, I felt ashamed to be white; I had no pride in my background. All of my life, before I took this class anyway, I have operated under the idea that racism was in the past, and that in today’s society race does not matter. My lack of comfort while at the section of the exhibit discussing white privilege only re-cements the fact in my head that race does matter.

After moving on, we came to an exhibit about the Native American race. This part was interesting to both me and the kids. The part that interested me most was about the Fighting Sioux mascot. I live an hour from Grand Forks (where UND is located) and most of my relatives live there so I have been a fan of Sioux sports since I remember. Though I have known about the issues with the mascot name of “The Fighting Sioux?, I have never really thought that much about it. A few of the kids I was with found that this mascot name, and many of the other ones displayed, were very offensive and implied negative stereotypes about their culture. One of the girls went on to explain that her heritage culture has always thought of themselves as peaceful. She thought that the way for explain, the Sioux mascot is shown as “fighting? sends the message that all Native Americans are violent. I admit that during coverage of the controversy of the team name, I thought to myself that I would not be offended if a team had a mascot of a “whitey?. It occurred to me after I remembered that thought, and also remembered my lack of pride and almost embarrassment about my own race, that perhaps the lack of pride is why I wouldn’t be offended. The pride that the Native American kids have for their culture is seen through the offense taken by the slaughtering of their name.

I admit, coming out of the race exhibit, I learned less from the readings and displays than from the situation I was in going into it. Although a lot of what I saw did enlighten my thinking. It is obvious after going to the race exhibit that while there may be no biological proof behind the differences in races, the society we live in says it matters. Besides the differences in race due to societal views, I think that a big difference comes from the pride or lack of pride that different cultures feel.