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'Are we so different?': Exhibit at Fargo City Hall examines race, racial discrimination

“We’re excited for people to view the exhibit and explore at your own pace,” YWCA communications manager Allison Pillar said, adding she hopes the exhibit will encourage people to have conversations and look for ways to increase diversity.

A woman in a T-shirt and man in a suit stand in front of black and white photos.
Terry Hogan, Fargo Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Allison Pillar, YWCA, introduce the RACE exhibit Wednesday, July 6, 2022, at Fargo City Hall. The exhibit, on loan from the Science Museum of Minnesota, will be in place through September.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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FARGO — A partnership between the city of Fargo and YWCA Cass Clay showcasing an exhibit on racial issues at Fargo City Hall was announced Wednesday, July 6.

Situated in the City Hall lobby, the exhibit is free and open to the public and is titled "Race: Are we so different?"

“It is a good learning tool for everyone to come out and discover what race and race discrimination is about,” said Terry Hogan, the city’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion .

The exhibit features census information categorizing slaves in 1790 and continues through the Civil Rights Movement to the present, showing that although housing discrimination is illegal, real estate agents still steer people into housing based on race, a process known as redlining.

“The exhibit will make us aware of who we are and of cultural differences. Different in many ways, but we’re still the same,” Hogan said.

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Allison Pillar, communications manager for the YWCA, said the same exhibit has been installed at the Hjemkomst Center, YWCA and other places and has been a conversation driver for visitors.

“We’re excited for people to view the exhibit and explore at your own pace,” Pillar said, adding she hopes the exhibit will encourage people to have conversations and look for ways to increase diversity.

To thoroughly go through the exhibit would take about two hours. There are videos, interactive screens, census data and even a game to guess the ethnicity of a person based on their voice, Pillar said.

The exhibit will close on Sept. 30, but visitors can register to take part in later discussions at the Fargo Public Library, she said.

“I want people to ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask. We know that race is a socially constructed idea, and I just want you to come out and educate yourself and also cross-reference anything that you might have issues with. That is important,” Hogan said.

Studying the exhibits reveals information that some may find shocking, including that interracial marriages were once illegal in the United States, and in the 1920s, “undesirables” was used to describe anyone from Asia or Africa, and legislation blocked many from immigrating to the United States.

More recent studies included in the exhibit show local demographic shifts, achievement gaps between white students and students of color, and how the greed for gold and land stripped Native American tribes of their ancestral homes.

Hogan understands that some in the Fargo-Moorhead community might not agree with the exhibit’s message.

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“I’m not trying to convince you to change your ways. I just want you to think outside the box, because this is America,” said Hogan, who holds a doctorate in public administration and policy. “As long as, like we say in Chicago, I planted the seed, whether you agree or disagree, I just want to show: Are we so different?”

For Pillar, the exhibit is part of the YWCA’s agenda of eliminating racism, she said.

“The hope is that even if only the people who are already engaged visit the exhibit, that they will bring these ideas home and discuss with family and those who may not agree,” she said.

Community discussions pertaining to the exhibit will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, July 29; Thursday, Aug. 18; and Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Fargo Public Library, 101 Fourth St. N.

Those interested in attending can ask questions of the YWCA's Racial Justice Committee and can register for the events at the YWCA Cass Clay website or at ywcacassclay.eventbrite.com .

Related Topics: FARGOARTRACISM
C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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