Updated July 14, 2020
The popular exhibit entitled “Race: Are We So Different?” offered a place to respectfully talk about race from a national public policy and a human interest standpoint.
As defined in this exhibit, race is not who a person is. Instead, it is a human-made construct to categorize people to forward a political, social, or economic agenda. For example, the United States on a federal level enacted the following public policy based on “race:”
- Until 1865, via slavery and against their will, Africans were forced to come to the United States.
- From 1882 – 1965, Chinese were forbidden to immigrate to America.
- In the 1830s, Native Americans were forced to relocate to the west of the Mississippi.
Based on such policies as the above, the “Race: Are We So Different?” exhibit also compared the nuances of how policy enforcement varied in different states.
Then fast forward to the 20th century. One part of the exhibit shows that the Government Issue or “G.I. Bill” steered Caucasians to move to the suburbs where the real estate values increased, which thereby increased their wealth. In contrast, Hispanics, Chinese, and African-Americans were not allowed or encouraged to take advantage of the G.I. Bill.
The exhibit not only talked about how past public policy affected present social-economic status but also talked about human interest stories in a disarming way. Stories included a Caucasian man who told about how he grew up to understand biracial and multiracial people who don’t fit in neat categories. The exhibit also spoke of a child who desired to talk about race and differences with his parents, as well as African-Americans who spoke about race.
By understanding the past and present via this exhibit “Race: Are We So Different?” we can make better-informed and empathetic decisions to shape our future and those around us.
Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawaii and has native fluency in Cantonese, the language spoken in Southern China where her parents were born. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950s, and then to Hawaii in the 1970s.