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Race Continues to Define America

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March 25, 2008

Race Continues to Define America

In a speech delivered this morning in Philadelphia, Sen. Barack Obama called attention to the issue of race in his presidential campaign and to the issues of racism and racial inequalities in the United States. He stated, “Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.” He also characterized the present-day social and political climate as “a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.”

The American Anthropological Association has been a prominent agent for promoting public dialogue about issues of race in the United States. In January 2007, the association launched its landmark public education project, RACE Are We So Different?— which includes a 5,000 square-foot museum exhibit, an interactive Web site, www.understandingRACE.org, and educational materials.

Anthropological research shows that race is about culture, not biology. Yet as Sen. Obama indicated, racism is real and continues to affect the daily lives of many Americans. Though slavery has ended and civil rights have been enacted, institutional racism continues to contribute to disparities in health, income and education among people in the United States.

The RACE project explores the topic of race through the eyes of science, history, and lived experience. Through interactive exhibit components, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs and multimedia presentations, RACE Are We So Different? conveys three core messages:

• Race is a recent human invention

• Race is about culture, not biology

• Race and racism are embedded in our institutions and everyday life.

Since its launch in January 2007, over one million visitors have explored the RACE exhibit and Web site. The original traveling exhibit is on view at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ until April 27. The exhibit tour is booked until the end of 2011. RACE is part of a larger public education program developed over more than five and a half years with over $4 million in funding from the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the AAA.

Representatives of the RACE project may be contacted on the subject of race and the topics of Senator Obama’s speech on race. For information about the RACE: Are We So Different? project, please visit www.understandingRACE.org

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