Nathan Burns is a junior from Newtown, Pennsylvania double-majoring in French and Leadership Studies and minoring in English. This summer of 2019 marks Nathan’s first time working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus, Nathan is also a writing consultant and a member of the dining services student advisory committee.
For me, the hardest part of my initial research process has been finding the courage to acknowledge my identity in my work. Over the past few weeks of team discussions and metadata creation, I have realized that it is nearly impossible to do archival research and not notice how my identity as a white-passing male and member of the LGBTQ+ community influences my emotional response to any source I encounter. Before my experience with the Race & Racism at UR Project, I was taught to conceal my identity during the research process in an attempt to remain unbiased and neutral toward knowledge. On a positive note, this detachment allowed me to focus on “objective” truth and facts when recounting history. However, in a team meeting a few weeks ago led by Sojourna Cunningham, we discussed the negative consequences that arise from this insistence on historical neutrality. We determined that one of these negative consequences was the erasure of empathy and emotional connection to history. Another was the erasure of marginalized perspectives deemed unnecessary, even threatening, to the upkeep of “neutral” historical narratives that prioritize monocultural whiteness. I reflected after this team discussion that for most of my academic career, I have been trained to hide my own perspective. I have willingly obliged in hiding my identity in order to remain supposedly unbiased toward my dealing with knowledge, yet in doing so, I perpetuate a lie, a lie that I could ever be truly unemotional in my reactions to and presentations of knowledge. While working with the Race and Racism Project, I intend to not simply deal with knowledge, but to feel it. To feel upset, heartbroken, angry, and joyful. It is important to feel connected to the stories and people I read about because this project and this research, as I am beginning to understand, is empathy work in that it requires emotional connection, to feel from the perspective of my own identity.
Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.
Researching the documents held in the University’s archive reaffirms that many things on this campus have stayed the same. What’s shown in these yearbooks, these photos, and these Collegian articles is so physically close to where I sit today. I’ve found myself wondering if the pictured room in Gray Court is the same one I lived in last year. I’ve looked up while I’m in the Tyler Haynes Commons to get the same vantage point captured in a certain shot. This spatial inseparability makes it all the more painful that the Gray dorm room in the picture has a Confederate flag on the wall, or that my view of the Commons is nearly identical, except for a banner for the gender-norm obsessed Women’s Lifestyle Committee. Just how far am I from the inequity enforced in these photos?
Sabrina Garcia is a junior from, Waldwick, New Jersey double majoring in Leadership Studies and English and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). This is her first year working on the Race & Racism Project, on Team Archive. Sabrina is in the WILL* Program, works as a writing consultant, and is training to be a PSMA. She hopes to dedicate her career to social justice and believes in the mission of Race & Racism wholeheartedly.
Learning about archival methodologies may sound lackluster, however what one can do with archival methodologies is imperative to recovering the histories of marginalized people. Being taught the process of metadata entry was important to understanding the techniques of archiving, however when combined with the impactful concepts and principles that were presented to me through lectures by Dr. Andrea Simpson, Sojourna Cunningham, and Free Egunfemi, the techniques became all the more powerful. These women presented methods and modes of approaching research that works against the natural modes of archiving, and each of them are using archiving to break down hierarchies of power in the academic institution and beyond.
Johnnette Johnson is a rising senior from Marksville, Louisiana majoring in American Studies and French. Though her journey with the Race & Racism Project only began this summer, she has been involved in racial justice and community work since her matriculation at UR. A peer mentor and UR Downtown ambassador, when she’s not on campus or with family she’s out enjoying nature. She hopes to continue doing the work of commemorative justice and collective healing.
Our experiences construct who we are and how we see the world. A single person’s mindset, molded by their life experience, can easily take on a bias that manifests itself in the form of judgement or predisposition.
These facts are seemingly digestible. But when it is time be critical of oneself, personal bias is a hard cookie to swallow. Uninvited and unannounced, this process of self-analysis fell into my lap during my first interview with Mr. James “JR” Reed (’81).
Cole Richard is a junior from Orlando, Florida double majoring in English and Italian Studies and minoring in Linguistics. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism project. He is also a resident assistant, DJ at the campus radio station, and student worker at the music library.
When I was assigned my interview subject, Professor Raymond Slaughter, I began my research through the two avenues I thought would be most fruitful: The Race & Racism Project website and the Collegian archives. Unfortunately, relevant search results were rather paltry: One photograph from the project website and a handful of mentions in the Collegian. Although I was thankful to find anything at all, it seemed I had little to write interview questions from. Most of all, I was missing biographical information similar to what Team Oral History had been provided in preparation for our mock interview; I had no idea where Professor Slaughter had grown up or gone to school before coming to work at UR in 1977. Simply searching on Google (using terms such as “Raymond Slaughter,” “Ray Slaughter,” “Professor Slaughter,” “Dr. Slaughter,” and “Richmond,” or “University of Richmond,” etc.) was not especially helpful either. Although my searches yielded over two million results, only a few pertained to the Raymond Slaughter I would be interviewing, and these consisted mostly of outdated UR course catalogs or Whitepages search results that contained nothing more than a matching name. Lacking a profile of biographical information, I decided to put a pin in this and instead focus on considering the ways a faculty experience differs from that of a student, and how the interview and questions asked must differ to accommodate this.
Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.
With formal interviews a week ahead, I slowly began to realize that I was dealing with real people with real emotions and memories. I was nervous about how to handle sensitive topics but at the same time excited to delve into the personal stories of alumni who once roamed the grounds as young, bristling students. I realized that as the interviewer, I had the power to shine a spotlight on specifics of an interviewee’s story while also being a vector for making University history known to others. In preparation for interviewing Professor Raymond Slaughter, Dominic Finney, and Robin Mundle, I decided to begin my research by looking at the University of Richmond Collegian archives for articles including these individuals. I believed that I would be able to find actual quotations from these individuals or what activities and clubs they were involved in on campus. Rather than trying to create a profile or impression of someone through the writing of a third party, I was particularly interested in forming an impression through the words of the interviewee themselves if I could. While searching, I wondered whether or not these interviewees were outspoken about racial issues and how they fit into the campus community.
Shira Greer is a rising sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia majoring in Political Science and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus she is also a Richmond Scholar, an Oliver Hill Scholar, a Peer Advisor and Mentor, and a member of the Executive Council for a Multicultural Space at the University.
Once the excitement of being assigned my first interview subject wore off, I realized I now had the somewhat daunting task of starting to research my subject, 1999 alum Dominic Finney. I was hoping that there would be multiple hits once I searched his name on The Collegian and on the UR Scholarship Repository, but unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck. Each website only pulled up a couple of results, and gave me little insight into how Dominic Finney spent his four years at UR, aside from some of the organizations he was involved in on campus and what he majored in. A Google search returned his LinkedIn page, which gave me a bit more information about what he had been up to since his time as an undergraduate, which included returning UR for both a master’s degree as well as a certificate from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Still, I was left with many questions about what Dominic’s life as an undergraduate at the University of Richmond was like. Clearly, I was going to have to shift my focus from being solely on Dominic and instead to different sources that would point to the more general atmosphere on campus.
Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org.
This week was spent determining our research topics and looking at how to approach our research questions. These questions centered around the experiences of marginalized students, and support use of the archive as a source of inquiry. I decided to examine the curriculum at the University of Richmond. There are several areas to look at here – I intend to focus on the now defunct Core curriculum/current First Year Seminar classes/required reading, as well as course offerings, course content, and faculty specialties. I intend to examine whether or not the curriculum is Western focused and Eurocentric, and, if it is, to what extent. I will also look at the extent of minority representation in required reading and examine whether or not faculty members have specialties in their disciplines to equip them to teach non-Western centric content.
Joy Lim is a Sophomore from Dallas, Texas majoring in Rhetoric/Communication Studies + Sociology and minoring in Anthropology. She is involved in the Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA), Alpha Phi Omega (APO), Delta Gamma (DG), Korean American Student Association (KASA), YouthLife, and is a mentor in the Peer Advisors and Mentors program (PAM). This is her first year working with the Race & Racism Project but she is interested in continuing this work in the future. She hopes to explore social justice issues not just on the University of Richmond campus but around the world as she continues her studies.
Since I already knew I wanted to research the topic of Greek Life, I continued further reading about race and racism within UR fraternities in hopes of finding more connections within Greek Life. In addition to re-exploring the exhibit on Racism in UR fraternities, I recently gained access to the University of Richmond’s online yearbooks. Historically white sororities started at the University of Richmond in 1987; knowing this date allows me to start my research in that time period. I plan to look through each yearbook starting from 1987 in order to find out what role race and racism played in the founding of sororities and their histories. I also will read through articles in The Collegian from the 1980s and 1990s in order to find more information on sorority history.
Jisu Song is a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia not decided in major but minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2019 and is currently serving in the Oral History Team. As a student, she is an executive member in WILL*, member of Sirens, and a peer advisors and mentors. She hopes to work for global audiences.
As we moved into third week, Team Oral History started to prepare for interviews. As I meet more people who supports this project and articles that explain the importance of the Oral Histories and Archive, my passion towards this project increased even more. As I talk about this project to my acquaintances; I had many negative reactions. I heard some say that “racism is a joke” because everyone is treated equally. While I respect those opinions, our society holds racism in many forms. Eduardo Bonilla Silva, a sociology professor at Duke University, explains that new racism has formed after the Jim Crow Era. New racism shows that society itself has a racism by without using the word. It is very subtle, institutional that uses the nonracial mechanism. No one acknowledges that they are racist, but students of color still feel oppressed by many people, new racism is very real yet subtle. Free Egunfemi, the founder of Untold RVA, told us that we need to hold three characteristics: self-determination, resistance, and intersectionality. She explained that self-determination is doing what you are called to do no matter the situation, resistance is to find a new way to improve the world, and intersectionality is to gather diverse perspective into the topic. I truly believe that Race & Racism Project will allow all three characteristics to be existed not only for students but also for alumni.