Human Race Kiosk

All this past week (Oct. 8-12), if you were to go to the Unity Room (3rd floor of Reamer), you could find the Human Race Kiosk. It essentially is a machine that acts as a photobooth. But what makes it so special is that the Human Race Kiosk allows you to see what you would look like if you were of another race! You could choose to see yourself as Asian, Middle Eastern, Black, White, Hispanic, or Indian. Below is what I would look like as White and as Asian:

On Oct. 11th, the Black Student Union (BSU), African and Latino Alliance of Students (ALAS), Women’s Union, and Circulo Estudiantil Latinoamericano (CELA) hosted a thought-provoking follow up discussion to talk about how issues of race affect us, both nationally and internationally, and to explain how race is a social construct. Jason Benetiz (the Director of Multicultural Affairs) facilitated the event. It was a great discussion and really eye-opening!

Afterward, we were given a handout titled: “Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race”.
I’ll post them below:

1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, gender, class, and even language. The English language didn’t even have the word ‘race’ until it turned up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar who was referring to a line of kings.

2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait, or even gene, distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

3. Human subspecies don’t exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven’t been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are among the most similar of all species.

4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, height, blood type, music talent, athletic ability, or forms of intelligence. Knowing one trait, like skin color, doesn’t necessarily tell you anything else about the person.

5. Most variation is within, not between, “races”. Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans, or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.

6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours (U.S.) was the first slave system where all of the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.

7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that “All men are created equal”. But our early economy was based largely on slavery. how could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.

8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became “common sense” in white America. It rationalized not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, the exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that otherwise professed a deep belief in liberty and equality. Racial practices became institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.

9. Race isn’t biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions disproportionately, albeit often invisibly, channel wealth, power, and resources to the “unmarked” race – white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.

10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn’t exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.

Hope you enjoy(ed)

xo

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About Isabelle Edwards

Student Blogger at Union College.
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