“RACE: Are we so different?”

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On Sept. 10th, Luther opened a condensed version of the visiting exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different,” in the atrium of the Center for the Arts. This exhibit explores the science of race and the idea that race is not a biological concept, but a social construct. The exhibit is now located in the Women and Gender studies house where it is available to see by appointment only.

The exhibit is a multimedia experience that features historical and modern photos, statistics, and objects that convey information about the presence of race in society. It demonstrates how the concept of race is used as a justification for prejudice and mistreatment even though there are not scientific differences between people of different races.

Professor of Sociology Charlotte Kunkel believes that the exhibit is an effective tool for educating students and faculty about race as a social concept, as it directly addresses the misconception that construct of race is based in science.   

“I think that the purpose of the exhibit, originally, was to educate us, particularly white people who are not racially literate,” Kunkel said. “We don’t have experience or language to talk about racism. Most people still believe there is some biology behind it, and there is not. So, right, we need to correct the misinformation. I also think that the purpose of the exhibit is not to say that we are all the same, it is to honor our differences and have the information we need to create a socially just society.”

The exhibit provides visualizations of racial disparities in the United States. One of the works in the exhibit is a plexiglass case with stacks of fake money. One of these stacks is much larger than the rest, and visualizes the difference in net worth between white people and other races in America based on U.S. census data.

Viewers can also hear first-person accounts of peoples’ experiences with race. Professor of Religion Guy Nave believes that the exhibit is an effective way to spark conversations on the role that race plays in society.

“I just think that it is an excellent exhibit, I am hoping that everyone in the Luther community has a chance to visit, but also that it gets the deserved attention from the community itself,” Nave said. “I just think that everyone can benefit from experiencing the exhibit, and you know oftentimes being exposed to information sensorially, rather than just being talked at, through sight, sound, other means is always valuable.”

The original award-winning exhibit is located in the Science Museum of Minnesota, but the Diversity Council of Rochester lent one of the five condensed versions of the exhibit to Luther.

As a member of the Diversity Council of Rochester, Kunkel served as the liasion to bring one of the five traveling exhibits to Luther.

Kristen Hansen (‘20) believes that students should view the exhibit in order to learn more about how to view social identity.

“You can tell when somebody doesn’t look the same way that you do, or when somebody looks the same way you do and you instantly feel a connection or not a connection, and the exhibit really talks about ways that our society really grapples with social identity,” Hansen said.

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