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RACE exhibit highlights social constructions and beliefs

RACE Exhibits
Maya Ruiz-Stanbary '11 examines dolls of different races last weekend in Des Moines. The RACE exhibit included a variety of medias to explain issues associated with race - Que'nique Newbill

This past weekend, as a part of New Student Orientation (NSO) Grinnellians were bused to the Science Center of Iowa, located in Des Moines, to view an exhibit entitled “RACE: Are We So Different?”

The exhibit was developed by the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota as a way to convey the history of race and the role that science has played within that role.

“The exhibit was presented in a way that proved that race is a social construction, not a genetic classification,” said Kathryn Fenster ’14. “It dealt with the intense topic in an entertaining and enlightening way, that [placed] the issue in a new light, even if [students] were already aware of the basic facts related in the exhibit.”

Consisting of three components, the exhibit seeks to explore the everyday social experience of race, the science that constructs human variation and the history of the idea of race.

Some students found the exhibit interesting in the sense that it incorporates hands-on activities, historical artifacts and photographs to tell the story regarding race even if they were already familiar with the information presented.

“I think it was a great exhibit, I just think that as a Grinnellian, I already knew most of the info,” said Misha Ghadiri ’12. “… it was nice to see the effort so that people who don’t attend Grinnell and those who aren’t constantly talking about social constructs could experience it.”

Particular parts of the exhibition especially appealed to Victor Golden ’13.

“I liked how they had the census report results from previous years and how it showed how racial categories have evolved,” Golden said. “I felt that the evolution of categories showed that race is still a social construct —it shows that the construction of race is still relevant.”

Though the content of the exhibit was not new for most Grinnellians, some believed that many students that are new to the College would benefit from viewing the exhibit.

“I think it definitely could give people who don’t go to Grinnell [the tool to see race in a new scientific light],” Ghadiri said. “I think that most Grinnell College students already have and use that tool. It makes sense to take first-years because it is possible that they haven’t yet taken classes on race or culture, but as a third-year I don’t know that I learned a ton from the exhibit.”

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