A magnified look to at how we identify racial bias
The Saskatchewan Science Centre is putting racism under the microscope. Last week, the Saskatchewan Science Centre opened a new visiting exhibit called Behind Racism: Challenging the Way We Think, which will be here in town until April 2. The exhibit is brought to the museum by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CCRF), a registered charity started by the federal government as a crown corporation.
The Behind Racism exhibit has previously been shown at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Ontario Science Centre. Before coming to Regina, it was an exhibit at the Discovery Centre in Halifax.
The Saskatchewan Science Centre website markets the exhibit as one that “explores the mental processes that contribute to racism and discrimination.” The Science Centre asks viewers “could we unearth the roots of racism in ourselves, alter our own behaviours and effect greater change across our communities and institutions?”
I visited the Science Centre myself and found the exhibit on the second floor, taking up about a quarter of the floor space. The exhibit consists of three modules which address demographic data about the disproportionate impacts that ethnic minorities face, understanding bias, and strategies for reducing bias.
Approaching the exhibit, one cannot see inside but can hear recorded voices through the thin walls. Upon entering, a large 3-D bar graph in the centre of the exhibit catches one’s attention with bright red rectangles as large as a person, detailing the statistics for hate crimes in Canada in recent years.
Near the graph, one is drawn to a TV where different Canadians are talking about their experiences of discrimination. I heard a man talking about his experience of being Jewish in Quebec, detailing how 1960s housing laws prevented the sale of certain lots to people of Jewish descent.
Leaving the first module, one encounters a wall of text and statistics about the impacts of racism in Canada.
The next area begins talking about seemingly unrelated topics of prediction bias and having viewers perform a visual challenge to read a list of colour names which are coloured in ways that don’t match the name.
One is then invited to try a mock implicit bias test. Rather than being about racial bias, the exhibit uses the visitor’s choice of cats versus dogs or healthy food versus junk food as an example of how implicit bias functions. I found out that I’m a little biased against junk food, and along the way learned how a complicated psychological test works.
Finally, the last section of the exhibit gives visitors strategies for reducing bias and leaves the viewer asking how optimistic they are that Canadians can overcome racism.
If you’re planning a visit yourself, it took me about half an hour to go through the exhibit fairly thoroughly. However, if one wanted to see every video and read the text more carefully, someone could spend much longer there.
Like many Science Centre exhibits, there was a mix of wall text, infographics, educational videos, and activities to try that are appropriate for all ages.
Overall, Behind Racism is packed full of enough information that there is something for everyone to take away and apply in their own lives.