ATHENS, Ohio (TDB) -- Ohio University students got a chance last week to slip into somebody else's skin. A computerized booth was set up in the campus student center that overlayed faces with the characteristics of other races, and there were large crowds at the exhibit. The races students morphed into were Hispanic, Asian, Indian, black, midde-eastern, and white.
Not too long ago, Oprah tried out The Human Race Machine, switching skin tones and racial features. The results are worth seeing and offer a glimpse of what the Ohio University campus experienced. You can watch Oprah changing HERE.
Instead of marches -- which are the traditional ways to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday -- maybe these booths should be set up on city squares and in auditoriums. They would powerfully demonstrate King's point: Human racial differences are skin deep; the content of one's character is what truly counts.
In Athens, the machine was sponsored by the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, which wanted to raise awareness about racial issues and make people think about skin color in different ways. A story by David DeWitt, campus reporter for the weekly Athens News, said the exhibition (which has since moved on) was a major hit. "The machine has been drawing large crowds since its arrival last Friday and has been opening each day three hours earlier than originally scheduled,'' DeWitt reported. He added the machine came with a sign that reads: "There is no gene for race."
Nancy Burson is an artist who created the device, and she has been a visiting professor at Harvard University. She has called mankind the ''hue-man" race. There is some information about Burson at THIS WEB SITE and a longer article about her in the Village Voice from a few years ago.
The machine does more than alter racial characteristics. It offers a program that ages a face, another that can create bizarre distortions and a ''couples machine" that melds two faces to give a glimpse of what the prospective parents baby might look like.
DeWitt, the reporter who covered reaction to the machine at OU, said not everybody was awed by the technology and quoted a student who thought the exhibit promoted stereotypes. Still, he said some campus instructors made their students experience The Human Race Machine, which took 10 minutes to sit through.