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Race: Are We So Different?

January 12, 2015 - May 15, 2016

This popular exhibit returns to the Museum May 2, 2015.

This thought-provoking exhibit on the history, science, and experience of race, was developed by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). According to the AAA, Race: Are We So Different? “is the first national exhibition to tell the stories of race from the biological, cultural, and historical points of view. Combining these perspectives offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.”

People naturally observe the differences and similarities between themselves and others every day. It is part of a rapid, subconscious gathering of information that helps us navigate the world and those who share it with us. Ideas of sameness tend to bond people together in groups, providing a sense of community and identity. On the other hand, identifying physical and cultural characteristics that are unlike one’s own has often provided a foundation and justification for discrimination and oppressive treatment. These characteristics and differences have been explained in part by the existence of racial categories, but “contemporary scientific understanding of human variation is beginning to challenge ‘racial’ differences, and even question the very concept of race.” For example, visitors can “use a microscope to view their skin up close and explore the evolutionary story of skin color variation... [Discovering] that race is not found in our skin.” A person’s skin color, however, has a clear impact on their life, which is demonstrated by historical events, oral histories, and statistics relating to housing, medical treatment, and education.

The Museum will also add a local component to this exhibition that delves into the history of race and its impact in San Diego from the early Native American populations to the present day, when our city is home to every seemingly identifiable racial category. No one is left untouched by the effects of race today, whether positive or negative. Come and participate in this important discussion and share your own stories of how the idea and experience of race has shaped your life and worldview. Enjoy reading the stories of others, as well. In the end, you may find we are not so different after all.


Many thanks go to the RACE Subcommittee, a group of local professors and scholars who consulted with the San Diego Museum of Man on the content for the local exhibit component, Race in San Diego, and for the programming associated with the larger traveling show, RACE: Are We So Different?. They include Tere Ceseña (USD), Dr. Janice Jenkins (UCSD), Larry Banegas (Barona Kumeyaay), and Dr. Ramona Pérez (SDSU). Thanks also go to Kumeyaay elder Jane Dumas for allowing Museum staff to conduct a brief oral history of her life and thus providing valuable insight into the Native American point of view.

The Museum would like to thank both San Diego State University and Fred Lewis Productions for the use of their Heart of San Diego collection. The Heart of San Diego is a collection of historical videos housed and maintained at San Diego State University and originally produced by Fred Lewis Productions. Copies of the individual shows are available upon inquiry from San Diego State University.  In addition, the Museum is very appreciative of the efforts of Chris Travers and Jane Kenealy of the San Diego History Center for their assistance with Race in San Diego.