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New exhibit explores ins-and-outs of race and racism

Brian Slayton

Issue date: 10/10/08 Section: Focus
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Crowds are flooding into the halls of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History for its new exhibit, Race - Are We So Different? Exploring the ins-and-outs of the category of race, the exhibit should not be missed.
The goal of the exhibit is to enrich the public's knowledge of race and racism by exploring three themes about race: the everyday experience, the science that is challenging common ideas, and its history in the United States.
The exhibit contains a variety of informative and personal activities, movies, and literature that chip away at one's core beliefs. Freshman James Urban felt taken by the shocking reality of the exhibit in general. "At first you don't feel any different. But once you read and watch some of the activities your throat feels heavy. Its makes your prejudices seem small."
There are two tables located on opposite sides of the room where museum-goers can read and add stories to a notebook about their experiences with interracial relationships. One girl from the Cleveland area was captivated and felt forced to read the notebooks twice. She explained: "It was strange to come here with my boyfriend because we are of different races, and how people don't accept interracial couples really hit me personally."
Whether or not you add your individual past to your experience, you will find something that will change your perception of the world. One station entitled "How Are We Alike and Different?" focuses on the history of humans. The DNA strands inside the cells of every person, whether that person is African- American, Caucasian, Asian, Latino, or Native American, share similar patterns. In fact, every person alive on earth today has African ancestry, according to the findings the exhibition presents. The station shows that 150,000 to 200,000 years ago, humans left Africa to colonize the rest of the world.
The exhibit further explores questions such as the assumption that African-Americans are naturally better athletes than people of other races. For CWRU tennis player Isaac Pearlman, the athletic station was the final proof. "I not only know, but now believe that race has nothing to do with athletic ability. It seems to all stem from cultural heritage."
Many experts on race have high hopes for the exhibit. The American Anthropological Association states, "We hope the exhibition will foster dialogue around the U.S. and help better relations among us all." Dr. Mark Lewine, a professor at Cuyahoga Community College and the director of the Center for Community Research, echoed this sentiment. He said, "I waited 43 years to see complete strangers from different races turn to each other and start a conversation because they felt a connection."
With the importance of race in today's world and the prevalence of prejudices, it is critical to be knowledgeable. Race opens doors to new conversations and thoughts about who we truly are. Living in a multiracial environment, it is necessary for all of us to go through the exhibit at least once. Only through knowledge can we relieve prejudices from ignorance.
The exhibit will be open until Jan. 4 and is free to all CWRU students with an ID card.
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