These questions and others about the myths and reality--and unreality--about race and racism in America are explored in a new high-tech multimedia exhibition at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, called "RACE: Are We So Different?"
Probing the complex topic of race through science, history, human variation and everyday experiences using videos, still photography, artifacts, iconic objects, interactive components, computers, local programming and graphic displays. It challenges how we think about race, or human variation, and about the differences and similarities among people.
Displays fill the museum's 4,200-square-foot Mashantucket Gallery. On entering, visitors are confronted with the question, "What is race?" Once inside, the topic is addressed in dozens of presentations from multiple perspectives.
One called "Human Variation," differences are explored through height, molecular science, genetics, health and the broad spectrum of skin colors.
"When you begin to understand the biology of human variation, you have to ask yourself, 'Is race a good way to describe that?'" said Janis Hutchinson, a biological anthropologist. The display includes a video of scientists discussing their research about human differences and their conclusion that there is no biological basis to race.
"Race is so deeply embedded in our lives, it appears to be the natural order of things. We must challenge that notion with all the power of science and society," Yolanda Moses, an anthropologist, says in one of the exhibits.
An old print ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes, for example, has an illustration of an Indian holding a hatchet attacking a white man with the words: "Nature in the raw is seldom mild." The cigarette company is boasting that the tobacco in its cigarettes is toasted, unlike the "raw" nature of the Indian.