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Breaking down “us” and “them”: new exhibition on racism opens at the CMHR

Panel discussion, public launch to open free exhibition on May 31

Tags for Breaking down “us” and “them”: new exhibition on racism opens at the CMHR

Upright panels are arranged in a circle in a dimly lit room. A gap offers people a way to enter the circle, and the interior of the circle is lit brightly. Next to the opening, a panel shows the words "Behind Racism: Challenging the Way We Think."

CMHR, Jessica Sigurdson

News release details

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) invites visitors to explore a new travelling exhibition, Behind Racism: Challenging the Way We Think. Opening May 31 in the Level 1 Gallery, visitors can explore this exhibition at no cost.

Developed by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in partnership with the Ontario Science Centre, the exhibition uses interactive games, personal testimonies, videos and 3D models to illustrate the science behind how our brains make predictions and judgements that rely on biases. It also highlights how those biases are shaped by our socialization and, when unchecked, can result in racism.

“This exhibition is a call for action that begins by looking inward,” said CEO Isha Khan (she/her). “We all have biases, and we have to be mindful of them. But it’s vital we recognize when those biases contribute to systemic racism. If we’re able to break the taboo against admitting our biases, we can actually open important conversations about systemic racism and take meaningful action.”

The CMHR has been challenged to address its own systemic racism and discrimination and Khan noted that making this exhibition free was part of that journey.

“We’ve been working hard to build a more inclusive museum and we’ve made important progress. But we know that anti‐racism is a practice, not a checklist,” said Khan. “This exhibition offers ways to move from good intentions to meaningful actions, and we are pleased to be able to share it with our community.”

To mark the opening, the CMHR is hosting a public launch and interactive panel discussion about race and racism on May 31. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The panel discussion will start at 7:00 p.m. hosted by Natalie Bell (@pegcitylovely). It will feature Isha Khan, Mohammed Hashim, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and Marie Chapman, CEO of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. A free ticket is required to attend, available here.

Behind Racism: Challenging the Way We Think runs from May 31, 2022, until October 16, 2022.

The exhibition and its tour are presented by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation with the generous support of the Government of Canada and in partnership with the Mosaic Institute, the Ontario Science Centre and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is grateful to Wawanesa Insurance and CPA Manitoba for their support of this exhibition in Winnipeg.

Backgrounder

About Behind Racism: Challenging the Way We Think 

Biases help us preserve mental energy and simplify everyday tasks. But they can also lead us to make judgements about people who present differently than we do. When biases go unchecked, they can manifest as racism and lead us to feel that someone is fundamentally different or inferior because of their skin colour, culture, country of origin or other characteristics.

This exhibition explores the processes our brains go through to form biases, and how we can challenge those biases.

It also shares personal testimonies from people who’ve had their rights violated, as well as data to reveal systemic racism in Canada. It highlights disparities in reported hate crimes, differences in income levels, the impacts of educational streaming based on skin colour, likelihood of involvement in child welfare systems, overrepresentation in the criminal justice system and more. It also shares specific sections about the ongoing impacts of slavery in Canada and the Indian residential school system.

The exhibition debuted in February 2022 at the Ontario Science Centre, and the CMHR is the first stop on its national tour. More information about the exhibition, including an introductory video, is available here.

Media contacts

Rorie McLeod (he/him)