The Exhibit that Makes a Teacher Think More

Poster of RACE: Are We So Different?

As it says on its poster, the exhibit, RACE: Are We So Different, tries to challenge visitors’ perspectives by leading them to look at race through a scientific lens. However, the seventh-grade teacher, whom I interviewed, doesn’t think she has changed her mind. Instead, she has “ thought more about the aspects of the exhibit that were particularly meaningful” to her.

“I’m looking at [the exhibit] through the lens of bringing my seventh-grade students here,” said Tamara Bunnell, 45, who is from Seattle, “so I have [my] individual reaction to it and also I’m sort of thinking of a larger theme about how do I break this down for my students.” As a teacher, she is also thinking of collaborating with science teachers in her school so as to include information that learned from the exhibit into her class.

Interested in the “generational components” in the exhibit, Bunnell said it was fascinating to see how race was constructed and the way the science community was in both 1800’s and now.

Other than that, in a follow-up email Bunnell also told me she has compared it with the film that showed a group of high school students discussing race in their lunchroom. “While I was inspired by how open and observant all those students were about race, I was disheartened by the extent to which their lives and lunch-sitting choices still seem bound and limited by racial identity, and how their experiences aren’t all that different from those of the various adults featured in the other films in the exhibit.”

Bunnell admitted that she had an assumption about people’s race before seeing this exhibit. The exhibit, nevertheless, has made her realize how easily she still “[accepts] and [falls] back on the typical racial identifiers we’ve been offered historically” and think about what that actually means for the “racial dialogue going on in this country and the larger world” and us.

“Actually I don’t know fully what my ancestry is,“ Bunnell answered when I asked if she has any trouble identifying her race or ancestry. Instead she would answer either “White” or “Caucasian” because she knows most of her heritage is European. Being very aware of her facial features, she said, “I look white. I’m very aware that I look white and even if I were to find out some of my heritage was different it wouldn’t change my primary identity or that people treat me as white.”

Overall, Bunnell said she could “envision a positive time in the future where [racial categories] no longer exist to limit us, and how we work with and see ourselves and others.” But the thing is, she still doesn’t know how to get “there.”