2017-04-19 / News


RALEIGH — It’s a simple truth. People are different. Throughout history, these differences have been a source of community strength and personal identity. They have also been the basis for discrimination and oppression. Today, contemporary scientific understanding of human variation is beginning to challenge “racial” differences, and even question the very concept of race.

“RACE: Are We So Different?”, opening at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences April 22, is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an look at race and racism in the United States. Support from local businesses and organizations allows the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences to offer this exhibition to the public free of charge.

“This is perhaps the most important conversation we’re going to have as a community in the next decade,” said Damon Circosta, executive director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, the presenting sponsor of the exhibition.

“Typically, conversations around race and equity happen in the margins. We’re so excited about having it right in our downtown, because it deserves broader distribution than a college class or book club. This exhibition underscores the notion that we really are more alike than we are different. It does so in such a way that doesn’t anger, it informs. It invites discussion and open-mindedness.”

By using interactive components, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs and multimedia presentations, “RACE” challenges some common assumptions through its messages — that race is a recent human invention; that race is about culture, not biology; and that race and racism are embedded in institutions and everyday life. “RACE,” which runs through Oct. 22, was developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota.

“I am confident that this exhibit and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ menu of related programming will draw diverse audiences reflective of our entire community,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, “and I applaud the museum for opening this outstanding and thought-provoking exhibit to everyone by offering free admission. It’s my hope that it will help to provide a foundation for honest, transparent and respectful conversations about race to take place.”

“RACE” addresses the topics of race and racism from three different perspectives. The three sections are interwoven and tell a story of science with social impact.

Science: In this section of the exhibition, visitors will discover that human beings are more alike than any other living species, and no one gene or set of genes can support the idea of race.

History: Ideas about race have been around for hundreds of years, and they have changed over time. This section demonstrates that, throughout American history, economic interests, popular culture, science, politics, and the struggle for power have played a role in shaping understanding of race.

Experience: Though race may not be a real biological concept, it is real both socially and culturally. In this section, visitors will explore the personal experiences of race in schools, neighborhoods, health care systems, sports and entertainment industries.

A key component of the RACE exhibition is Cultural Conversations. Led by experienced local facilitators, Cultural Conversations are 90-minute guided discussions to help visitors reflect on their experiences in learning about and experiencing race as a factor in their lives and communities. This process has proven to be a successful method of conflict resolution and respectful discussion, and will serve as a means for visitors to enhance their RACE exhibition experience.

Cultural Conversations will run Saturday and Sunday afternoons from April 22 to Sept. 3, and are free and open to the public. Registration is required. Day or evening fee-based Cultural Conversations may be scheduled for corporate or non-profit organizations, Monday through Friday. For more information or to sign up for a Cultural Conversation, visit naturalsciences.org/race.

The RACE Speakers’ Series brings together renowned speakers from the Triangle area, as well as from around the region and around the country. The series of seven offerings launches May 16.

The free event begins at 7 p.m. The Speakers’ Series continues through September.

For more information, visit naturalsciences.org/ race.

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