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The traveling exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different?” will open at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie for a nearly four-month stay, until Jan. 25. The exhibit, developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from biological, cultural and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States. The exhibit at the Holocaust Museum is co-presented by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.
Differences among people have been a source of community strength and personal identity but have also been the basis for discrimination and oppression, literature accompanying the exhibit points out. The literature continues, “The idea of ‘race’ has been used historically to describe these differences and justify mistreatment of people and even genocide. Today, contemporary scientific understanding of human variation is beginning to challenge ‘racial’ differences, and even question the very concept of race.”
At a press conference in March announcing the partnership between the YWCA Evanston/North Shore and the Illinois Holocaust Museum to sponsor the exhibit, YWCA CEO Karen Singer said, “As you know, eliminating racism is core to the mission of the YWCA. Understanding how our community and institutions have been and are affected by racism … is no easy task. … [The exhibit provides] a unique opportunity to catalyze and engage the community … and an opportunity not only to expand the conversation, but also to support others in deepening their understanding of how this socially constructed notion of ‘race’ impacts us all.”
Also at the press conference, Noreen Brand, director of training and public programs at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, said she felt the exhibit can lead to conversations about one’s personal identity – “about identifying who you are.”
Ms. Brand recalled the statement of U.C.L.A. Professor Robin D.G. Kelley that “race is not about how you look, it is about how people assign meaning to how you look.”
On Oct. 12, the day the exhibit opens to the public, there will be facilitated Talking Circles at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. for those interested in discussing their responses. At 1:30 p.m., the Evanston Children’s Choir under the direction of Gary Geiger will perform in the Museum Hall. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is located at 9603 Woods Drive in Skokie.