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Supporting and Framing a National Dialogue on Race
Educational Project Exploring RACE in the US Provides Framework for National Dialogue
August 11, 2009 – While commenting on the recent the arrest of scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr, President Obama drew attention to the “indisputable” reality of racial profiling and again called for a “national dialogue on race.” This raises the question: what, exactly, constitutes a “national dialogue on race?”
The American Anthropological Association developed the public education project RACE: Are We So Different? to launch and support robust discussions of race and diversity nationwide. The project consists of a traveling exhibit, website (www.understandingRACE.org), and educational materials, including a dual disc CD/DVD set. A sample RACE Project video may be viewed online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aaTAUAEyho&feature=channel_page.
These materials provide helpful tools for productive dialogue among those interested in learning different perspectives on race and unlearning racism. This is an opportunity for individuals and community organizations to establish new relationships while engaging in informed and productive discussions about race relations locally and throughout the country.
Tonya Mathews, director of Cincinnati Museum Center, which hosted the RACE exhibit this winter, reflected on how important local partnerships were in creating a meaningful and ongoing dialogue about race in her community:
To make an exhibition like RACE successful, you need community partners—not simply sponsors or funders, but partners. One of the most exciting things we realized in the process of preparing for RACE is that simply having the exhibit transformed our relationship with the community. We saw a willingness and eagerness to partner with us to support this exhibit from segments of the community that did not have strong pre-existing relationships with us. The end result was so positive on both sides that we are confident these partnerships were a "first step" rather than just one-time events.
Joseph Jones, RACE Project manager, is excited by the prospect of changing the way the nation sees race:
Talking about race is notoriously difficult, at least for adults. This certainly isn’t due to lack of opinions or interest in the topic. In many instances true conversation breaks down, or never begins, because we didn’t take the time to ask the basic questions. “What is race?” “Where did it originate?” “Why?” The RACE Project answers these questions and then asks in turn: “Should race continue to divide us?” Already, teachers across the country are using RACE Project teaching tools to promote a healthy understanding of human difference and commonality among today’s children. Beginning next year, a replica and a condensed version of the exhibit will join the original exhibit in traveling the country. This extensive network of host museums, schools and community partners will provide an unprecedented opportunity to turn local discussions of race into a dialogue that is truly national in scope.
The RACE exhibit, currently at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, will be headed to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in October 2009. Launched in 2007, the exhibit tour was originally scheduled to conclude at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2011, but due to popular demand it has been extended to 2014. The exhibit will travel to nearly 50 American cities.
To learn about RACE and “unlearning” racism, please visit www.understandingRACE.org
For a listing of tour dates near you please visit: www.understandingrace.com/about/tour.html
For questions, contact RACE Project Manager Jeff Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 528-1902, ext 1163.
Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world's largest professional organization of anthropologists and others interested in anthropology, with an average annual membership of more than 10,000. The Arlington, VA-based association represents all specialties within anthropology—cultural anthropology, biological (or physical) anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and applied anthropology.