Experience brings students face-to-face with themselves as a different race

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's hard to judge any book by its cover. At one local university, there's an experiment going on, using technology to dissolve perceptions based on the color of a person's skin.

It's been said that every picture says a thousand words. In the case of the Race Experience Kisok, which is on display at Avila University, photos say a lot more.

A machine's pictures show that people of different races are more alike than we may realize. The photo booth does more than click snapshots; its facial recognition software makes subtle changes in photographs, meant to show what a person would look like if they were of a different race.

The photos appear on the machine's screen almost instantly, and for students like sophomore Ashtyn Sills, the results can be surprising.

"It kind of opens my eyes a little bit," Sills said. "I guess I can kind of see the other views of people when i see them now."

Avila's president, Dr. Ron Slepitza, says that's the point. He says the university's Black Student Union sponsored this machine's appearance, renting it from a company in Connecticut.

"I think it's a way for all of us to find how much we share in common with others, particularly when you can see yourself transformed into someone of a different ethnicity," Slepitza said.

More often than not, the Race Experience makes minor changes to each photo, and in the end, the findings show people of different races to be more alike than not.

Avila Sophomore Rendale Johnson said he didn't know what to expect from the machine, but now, he's seeing the world differently.

"It's crazy seeing yourself as a different race," Johnson said. "You'd never imagine anything like that. It was a different experience for me."

In the case of Avila, a university spokesperson says this campus has a diversity rate of well over 30 percent. The hope is the Race Experience Kiosk can help those students better understand one another.

The Race Experience Kiosk will be at Avila University's Marian Center through this Sunday. It's open to the public

More about the Race Experience at Avila University

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