The Race Exhibit

Race is a myth, but we persist in believing.

That’s one lesson from Race: Are We So Different?, a national touring exhibit sponsored by the American Anthropological Association.   There is no biological difference between races.  “All skin colors, whether light or dark, are due not to race but due to adaptation to life under the sun,” according to biological anthropologist Alan Goodman.

We’ve been brainwashed into believing we are different from one another.

Readers of this blog are well aware of the anti-immigrant movement’s belief in race-based breeding or eugenics.  John Tanton’s Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) received money from the Pioneer Fund, whose mission was “to [promote] the genetic stock of those ‘deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states . . .’”

Tanton and FAIR need to visit this Race exhibit.  Humanity’s roots are in Africa, and the exhibit shows how “traditional” ideas about race are inaccurate. Genetic variations between peoples around the world are “subsets of variation in the African population.”

But even if science can be corrected, it doesn’t erase the suffering caused by racism, the horrors of slavery, and the unequal distribution of wealth among different groups.

Racism also has determined who can be a citizen.  At one time, a black person couldn’t become a citizen in the U.S.

In OZAWA v. U S (1922), the Supreme Court ruled that a man born in Japan, but who had lived in the United States for 20 years was of the “Japanese race” and cannot be a citizen.  He was not “white.”

In 1923, United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the court said that a man who was “Asian Indian” could not be a citizen because he was not “white.”

And in 2011, is a similar thing happening?

As anti-immigration laws are being introduced in different states around the country, are legislators concerned about Canadians crossing the border and becoming citizens?  I would answer no, but we are often reluctant to consider whether immigration law discriminates against those whose skin color is not white.

After going to the Race exhibit, I facebooked: I am a “recovering white person” and I was pursuing a 12 step program called “The 12 White Steps” by damali ayo.  I was surprised by the passionate and sometimes angry responses to what I considered a playful way of encouraging white people to confront the race issue.

And isn’t that the awkward thing about race?  It’s a word and idea that is misused, misunderstood, and mistakenly believed to be true.

How do you identify yourself?

At the end of the exhibit, someone wrote beneath her picture, “I am millions of particles fused together making up a far less than perfect masterpiece.  I am the big bang.”

Unfortunately, there’s not enough room on the census form for that.

To plan your visit to the Race Exhibit as it tours the country:

http://understandingrace.org/about/tour.html.