“RACE: Are We So Different?” Explores Reality – and Unreality – of Race

For immediate release ‐ April 06, 2017

Contact: Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images available upon request

Race: Are We So Different? featured exhibition

Award-winning exhibition opens April 22 at N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

RALEIGH, N.C. – 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 unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States. Outstanding 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,” says 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 key messages — that race is a recent human invention; that race is about culture, not biology; and that race and racism are embedded in our institutions and everyday life. “RACE,” which runs through October 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,” says 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.”

Details on “RACE”

“RACE” addresses the topics of race and racism from three different perspectives. The three sections are interwoven and tell a compelling story of science with deep and lasting 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 our understanding of race.
  • Experience: Though race may not be a real biological concept, it certainly is real both socially and culturally. In this section, visitors will explore the personal experiences of race in our schools, neighborhoods, health care systems, sports and entertainment industries, and more.

In addition, “RACE” features the work of photographer Wing Young Huie, who specializes in documenting the changing cultural landscape of Minnesota’s Twin Cities. His Lake Street USA project transformed six miles of Minneapolis’ Lake Street into a public art project that earned national attention in 2000.

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 September 3, and are free and open to the public. Space is limited. Registration is required. Day or evening fee-based Cultural Conversations may be scheduled for corporate or non-profit organizations, Monday thru 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 with “Closing the RACE Gap: A Discussion on Health, Wealth, Education and Media,” a thought-provoking panel discussion featuring Dr. Alan Goodman, co-director of the American Anthropological Association’s project “RACE: Are We So Different?” and co-author of the publication of the same name. The panel will look at how race has been used to create inequality and produce disparities in health, wealth, education and media, and offer analysis and possible solutions that may help close the gaps that exist in society today. The free event begins at 7 p.m. The Speakers’ Series continues through September. For more information, visit naturalsciences.org/race.

A special event June 10, “Rhythm of Race: A Celebration of Music, Dance and Spoken Word,” provides a unique and culturally enriched opportunity to enjoy a day of poetry, music and dance that echoes the overarching sentiment behind the exhibition — that we are more alike than different and that artistic expression can build bridges among people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“RACE: Are We So Different?” is a project of American Anthropological Association, with funding from Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation. The exhibition is presented locally by A.J. Fletcher Foundation, with additional support from Duke Energy Foundation, City of Raleigh, Wells Fargo, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Additional programmatic support is provided by BB&T; Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Duke University Center on Genomics, Race, Identity, Difference; the University of North Carolina; Triangle Community Foundation; Paul Green Foundation; NC Humanities Council; and YMCA of the Triangle. Media sponsors are Capitol Broadcasting, UNC-TV and Radio One.

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