By Brian L. Cox | Chicago Tribune | January 20, 2015
The exhibit on race at the Holocaust Museum in Skokie tackles the topic from biological, cultural and historical points of view, but it’s something Evanston resident Ann Stewart said she lives every day.
“I think it’s hard to be a black person in the United States without being interested in race because it has so much effect on your life,” said Stewart, an African-American.
The exhibit titled “RACE: Are We So Different?” was developed by the American Anthropological/Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota. It tells stories and combines perspectives with the goal of offering an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.
The exhibit runs until Sunday at the museum at 9603 Woods Drive in Skokie.
More than 7,700 students from about 40 schools have been introduced to the three major themes — the science of human variation, the history of race and race in our culture.
“I think there’s an educational takeaway,” said Otis McGowan, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Race does matter. Our history shows that.
“I think we’ve made progress, but I think we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “Even knowing we’re different, we have a lot of things in common. I hope a lot of people would take that away.”
The exhibit is sponsored by the museum and the Evanston/North Shore YWCA, and working as a “community partner” was Open Communities, a north suburban not-for-profit fair and affordable-housing organization.
“This exhibit speaks loudly,” said Noreen Brand, museum director of training and public programs.
“We are a museum that is much broader in context than just a Holocaust museum,” she said. “We are a museum that wants to look at ‘how do you live in this world? How do you get along with others? How do you accept likes and differences? What lessons can we learn from the past in order to transform the future?'”
The exhibit follows a 2014 Open Communities study and investigation of discriminatory housing practices in and around the north suburbs. It found that although few African-Americans lodged complaints with Open Communities, audits found that racial discrimination against blacks persists in the rental and ownership markets but in ways that are not obvious to the community or to home seekers, group officials said.
Stewart said fair housing should always be part of the discussion when talking about race in America.
“I think the major point that they’re making here is that race has always been a determinate of things like housing and poverty and everything else there is to be had in the United States,” she said. “Race has always affected how much access you have to all the stuff you need, including housing and jobs and education and medical care and anything else you can think of.”
She said what you get out of the exhibit depends “on what you bring in with you. If you understand race to be biological rather than a social category, for example, what you take away is very different,” she said. “What it confronts depends on what you know when you walk into the room.”
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