Race Experience lets students try a different skin

By Krista Coulter

Through Sunday, students can visit a free traveling exhibit that allows participants to view themselves as a variety of races and share photos with friends to encourage discussions about race and the misunderstandings people have about it.

The Race Experience Kiosk, in the first-floor concourse of Student Center East, uses face detection software and a unique algorithm to transform the user’s skin and facial features into that of a different race. The exhibit is sponsored by UIC Campus Programs.

The concept of race has changed dramatically recently, thanks to scientific advancements, and the exhibit aims to change popular notions about what race actually means.

As someone with a complicated family history, I’ve never been too sure about what ethnicities my bloodline can be traced back to.

However, my skin is ghostly white, leading me to check off “Caucasian” on every application I’ve had to fill out.

After touring the Race Experience Kiosk, I was surprised to learn that Caucasian may not be the best fit for me after all.

The most startling thing I noticed was that when the kiosk morphed my face into what was listed as “White,” I looked like a different person. My eyes were wider, my nose larger and my lips much thinner.

In fact, if I could say I looked like any of the races listed, it would probably be “Hispanic,” a shock considering how pale my complexion is.

The other races, such as “Indian,” “Native American” and “Black,” showed a mixture of different features, changing more than skin tone to make the photo look genuine.

It’s a strange feeling to see yourself in the shoes of another race.

The accompanying Race Literacy Quiz and fact sheet pointed out that race is a relatively new idea with no genetic basis, a notion that has caused a great deal of suffering and tension over the past few centuries.

Tools like the Race Experience Kiosk aim to break previously held beliefs and lead to a more unified existence.

• Krista Coulter is a senior in communication.

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