Tuesday, October 7, 2014

RACE - What is it really?

We see it all the time: on surveys, Census forms, applications : "What's your race?" Most of us rarely question our race; we "know" we are white, African American, Indian, etc. But these racial categories are far more fluid and changeable than we may realize. Is "Hispanic" or "Latino" a race? Not according to the current Census, but it used to be. Are Ashkenazic Jewish, Irish, and Italian Americans all part of the same race? Most Americans would say yes, but at the turn of the 19th century, all three of these ethnic groups were considered separate "races",  generally deemed inferior to "whites", (i.e. Northern, Protestant Europeans).

In fact, there is no agreed upon biological definition of  race, yet race as a social construct has had, and continues to have a profound effect on one's social, educational, physical and economic health.

Evanstonians have a rare opportunity to explore these questions as we welcome the exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center this month. Developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, it 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. Co-presented by the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, it runs from October 12, 2014 – January 25, 2015.

EPL is a proud community partner for the RACE exhibit, and our next 3 AAL book discussions all relate to its themes:

The Invisible Line, 3 American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White  Tuesday Oct. 21st 7 pm

Many light skinned African Americans crossed the color line to avoid the very real and harsh implications of racial classification. Legal scholar Daniel Sharfstein chronicles the lives of three such families who made the transition from black to white during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on archival material, Sharfstein constructs an absorbing history, demonstrating the fluidity and arbitrariness of racial classification.


This groundbreaking book examines how the myth of biological concept of race--revived by purportedly cutting-edge science, race-specific drugs, genetic testing, and DNA databases--continues to undermine a just society and promote inequality in a supposedly "post-racial" era. Fatal Invention is a  timely and provocative analysis of race, science, and politics by one of the nation's leading legal scholars and social critics.



A Dreadful Deceit: the Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama's America Tuesday, December 16th, 7 pm

Professor Jacqueline Jones profiles six African-Americans from the 1650s  to late 20th-century to demonstrate that race, which has no "basis in biology," didn't become a social construct until around the time of the American Revolution. Jones argues that throughout our history, race has been used as a malleable tool that has been forged over and over to fit the political and economic whims of America's elite.

All 3 books will be available at the 2nd floor desk a month before the discussion. Call 847-448-8620 to register and reserve a copy.

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