What makes us different?Bottom Highlights, Scene Out Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Social Chaos: Scene Out
There’s a new permanent exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man (SDMM) that poses the question, “Race: Are We So Different?” For some, it will be their second time seeing it. “The American Anthropological Association curated the exhibit, it was here at the Museum of Man about four years ago and we had such a huge community response that we knew we had to bring it back and so we purchased it, and it’s now a permanent part of the museum” said SDMM Marketing Manager Grant Barrett.
The exhibit is honest in a way some will not expect. There’s a replica of a stoop that poses the question, “How does skin color privilege some and hurt others?” There are many that would like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Imagine the faces of these people showing up to an exhibit like this? But, the positive impact that the exhibit has on some is what matters most. “I wasn’t at the museum four years ago but I heard from my co-workers who were that a lot of important conversations have been started in this exhibit. We had a wonderful moment where this 80-year-old woman who was with our executive director in the exhibit and he said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ She said, ‘I gotta tell you, I’m 80 years old and I’m never too old to learn something, I didn’t even realize it doesn’t really matter.’ She went on to explain that she was holding on to all these old ideas about race and color without thinking about it. She just continued to believe these things without reassessing her opinions and ideas and this exhibit even at 80, turned the corner for her, and if one person a week or a month or year goes away changed like that, its completely done its job,” said Barrett.
It’s a great exhibit to have but one can only hope that change is not just in someone’s mind but also in his or her actions. For instance, there was an experiment posted online where the same resume was sent out with two different names and the African American sounding name got the least amount of calls. What would the HR representatives say about their decisions? And how many have an African American friend or family member and are still bias in their choices?
If a survey were taken of museum employees in Balboa Park would they be as diverse as the art and messages they promote? It’s great to find these things interesting but those conversations don’t mean anything until there is action attached to them.
I recently went to an event that promoted the importance of multilingualism in education. They talked about diversity, being non-judgmental and understanding. One of the people that organized it had judged me as a person that didn’t belong on “her team” within five minutes of meeting me and reading my resume. My resume showed that I had the same qualifications as the person I was replacing but I didn’t belong. The person I was replacing also liked me and still, I didn’t belong. I can only ponder on what her bias is. My resume also shows that I’m part of the LGBT community and the timing of the meeting coincided with a day that you could see my tattoo. It irked me to see her being praised for a forum that promotes the very thing she is not. Being able to quote a book is not the same as living by the ideals you pretend to have.
Either way, conversation does have to start somewhere and the great thing about having this permanent exhibit is that it will be updated throughout time. “The fundamental idea in this exhibit is that race is almost completely a social construct. We understand race only because of the things we were told rather than the things that we are. Your genes do not control your behavior in the way our ideas of race say that they do,” said Barrett. They’re also considering bringing back an old exhibit that was at the museum 100 years ago. Putting them side-by-side would be an interesting juxtaposition to see how and what has changed when we talk about race. For more information go to: http://www.museumofman.org
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