Spider of Color: Korean-American Representation at the University of Richmond

Over ten weeks this summer, 10 A&S Summer Fellows, 1 Spider Intern, 5 faculty mentors, and 1 community partner (Untold RVA) collaborated on The Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Final projects focused on the Race & Racism Project included exhibits, podcasts, and digital stories. Over the next few weeks, we will feature these works.

Joshua Hasulchan Kim is from Colonial Heights, Virginia. He is a junior at the University of Richmond who is double majoring in Journalism and French. Joshua is involved in various clubs on campus: He is the co-president of Block Crew dance crew, the opinions editor for the Collegian newspaper, and is the Co-Director of Operations for the Multicultural Lounge Building Committee. Joshua joined the project as part of the Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387) and expanded upon this research with the support of an A&S Summer Research Fellowship during Summer 2017.

Josh approached his summer research with the goal of identifying Korean and Korean-American students throughout the University of Richmond’s history. His research took him down some unexpected routes. Read the various blog posts Josh contributed over the course of his research, including his archival discovery of the (possibly) first Korean-American student on campus, here. Josh’s his final project was a podcast–listen to it here: “Spider of Color: Korean-American Representation at the University of Richmond.”

Explore Josh’s podcast and other projects via the Race & Racism at UR Project’s digital collection at memory.richmond.edu

This Week in the Archive: Against the Norm–T. Eugene West and His Neighbor, The Nisei

by Joshua Kim

(A Nisei is a person of Japanese descent born in the U.S. with immigrant parents. Nisei directly translates to “second generation” in Japanese.)

“At the outbreak of the war, 112,000 of these good people were taken from their homes, businesses, farms, schools, and churches and put into ten relocation camps throughout the midwest. Of these there were 70,000 American citizens by birth.” T. Eugene West, University of Richmond Class of 1927.

In his piece for the Richmond Alumni Bulletin, alum T. Eugene West passionately spoke on behalf of the Japanese American community and the horrors they faced during WWII, specifically the repercussions of Executive Order 9066.

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Seun Hi Kim: How Her Story Helps Shape Mine

by Joshua Kim

The beginning of my research was definitely very forward and shallow in terms of what I was looking for. When you join a project called “The Race & Racism Project” it’s easy to lose yourself in the obvious.

RACIST WORD RACIST WORD RACIST WORD RACIST WORD RACIST WORD RACIST WORD RACIST WO–

My initial search terms were all obvious. It was every racist term you could imagine: the N word, Chink, Gook, Injun, Redmen, etc. And these all led me to very obvious articles, pictures, columns, so and so forth. What it didn’t lead me to; however, were people. Real people.

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Museum of the Confederacy: I Am Sorry My Dear, but You Are Up for Elimination

by Joshua Kim

Picture this. You, an innocent, pop-culture savvy, Korean-American student at the University of Richmond, exploring the Museum of the Confederacy. You read the sign in the entrance:

Blogpost3_Kim_Photo1

“The leaders of those states acted because they believed that the election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President threatened the South’s interests. Lincoln’s Republican Party…opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories. The expansion of slavery and the return of fugitive slaves had been sources of serious tension between South and North since the Mexican War (1846-1848). …Only in 1860-1861 did those tensions lead to secession.”

Cool. Awesome. Sweet. You feel reassured that the museum will be inclusive of those who were enslaved by white-colonial Americans, aka Africans. So you begin your self-led tour of the museum.

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Protecting Its Values: Impact of “Lost Cause Ideology” in Virginia

by Joshua Kim

June 5, 2017. Today, I voted on a poll hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in regards to whether or not the monuments on Monument Avenue  — that honor several key Confederate figures — should be taken down.

This debate has fired up again, recently, after the removal of similar Confederate statues in New Orleans, the question being: Does dismantling these statues erase parts of our history?

Heritage not hate.

The phrase above is popular phrase used to defend the Confederate flag. With it, supporters make the claim that to wave the Confederate flag is to celebrate their forefathers and mothers, their ancestors who lost their lives fighting for their beliefs and pride. This depicts the South in a glorious fashion; as a center of sweet tea and honeysuckles, butter biscuits and warm sunbathes on big green lawns.

What this imagery lacks; however, is the stark reality that the South, specifically, Richmond, Virginia, was one of the leading slave markets of its time.

More so, what this depiction fails to tell us is the active offensive maneuvers Virginia politicians, businessmen, and everyday citizens made in order to create a racial hierarchy that continues to disenfranchise black people today.

“Before the rubble had been cleared from the devastated business district of the capital city, Richmond’s press began to campaign against voting rights for its freed black citizens” (Campbell, Richmond’s Unhealed History, 131).

A key figure in this campaign was Edward A. Pollard, wartime editor of the Richmond Examiner. Pollard is most famous for his book, The Lost Cause (1866), which created a narrative of the South that focused on its intellectual superiority and cultural influence and encouraged the South to retain its pride:

“(The South’s) well-known superiourity in civilization…has been recognized…by the intelligent everywhere; for it is the South that in the past produced four-fifths of the political literature of America, and presented in its public men that list of American names best known in the Christian world. That superiourity the war has not conquered or lowered; and the South will do right to claim and cherish it” (Campbell, quoting Pollard, 131-132).

This ideology resurged during the 1890s.

According to Campbell, “Monuments in Richmond show the power of Confederate themes in that time. The first…the Lee Monument, was unveiled on May 29, 1890. The ceremony began with a procession of 15,000 Confederate veterans leading a crowd which eventually totaled more than 100,000…” (Campbell, 136).

Immediately following the war, Richmond made it a political priority to reinstate dominance over its black population, and part of that process was the creation of these statues celebrating and commemorating Confederate war-time heroes.

But this is not just about statues, but actual laws that were put in place to limit black citizens from moving up the social ladder.

For example, on January 15, 1866, an extreme vagrancy law was passed which made unemployment illegal.

This was later prohibited nine days later by General Alfred Terry; however, its effects were still in place. Campbell notes that during this time “…white employers had already made agreements not to hire freedmen at normal wages, thus forcing wages to be depressed and providing an opportunity for the enforcement of the vagrancy statute” (Campbell, 132).

By denying black workers living wages, white employers were able to maintain economic dominance and establish a pseudo-slavery:

“The ultimate effect of the statue will be to reduce the freedmen to a condition of servitude worse than that from which they have been emancipated a condition which will be slavery in all but its name” (Campbell, 132).

In addition to economic oppression, white people also made it extremely difficult for black citizens to vote/gain power in office. They did this through poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, etc. Yet, despite these tactics, from 1867-1868, black people made up the majority of Richmond’s registered voters (Campbell, 134).

To combat this, the city government began to create segregated neighborhoods through “urban renewal:”

“From the very beginning, urban renewal focused on ‘blighted Negro housing.’ By this was meant the black neighborhoods of town. …Beginning with the establishment of the housing authority, white Richmond tore down Jackson Ward block by block… Over the next thirty-five years, in the name of urban renewal, the city council pursued a plan that destroyed or invaded every major black neighborhood in the city.” (Campbell, 152-153).

These residents were often relocated to projects, or they were forced into white neighborhoods. Then, the whites that had been “displaced” were sold housing in new suburbs in other counties, thus, effectively segregating white and black citizens.

White Richmond created a system in which black citizens suffered economic, social, and geographic oppression for the last century. We see the effects of it today when we look at how our community is still segregated by race, how black people are disproportionately in poverty compared to whites, and how we still have statues of Confederate leaders in our city.

When we discuss these monuments and the sentiments placed on them, let us not forget those who were most deeply affected by these men — black people.

Everyday those statues stand as a reminder of the deep rooted hatred and oppression white Richmond citizens have against our black population. They are reminders that, although at face value our city has grown, deep down, we are still the capital of the Confederate south.

Heritage is hate.

Joshua Hasulchan Kim is from Colonial Heights, Virginia. He is a sophomore at the University of Richmond who is double majoring in Journalism and French. Joshua is involved in various clubs on campus: He is the co-president of Block Crew dance crew, the opinions editor for the Collegian newspaper, and is the Co-Director of Operations for the Multicultural Lounge Building Committee. Joshua joined the project as part of the Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387) and is currently expanding this research with the support of an A&S Summer Research Fellowship.

This Week in the Archive: Spiders to Confederates

By Joshua Kim

“Don’t call me a Spider!”

In the year 1941, the University of Richmond found itself embroiled in a fierce debate as to whether or not they should ditch the campus symbol — the Richmond Spider — to become the Confederates.

This proposal was introduced by alumnus W.F. “Tip” Saunders (’13), who believed that the Spider symbol was inadequate. Instead, he believed that the university should be known as the Confederates inspired by Richmond’s status as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War in 1861.

Saunders argued that the name matched the university, as it once was used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers, and also because alumni from the university had enlisted in the war to fight on the Confederacy’s behalf (Collegian, 1941).

When I first began reading the article, I expected it to contain multiple voices supporting the brand change. Instead, what I found was a campus split between change and tradition.

Saunders found support in multiple places. Much of his support came from local sports writers in downtown Richmond who agreed that, “…by use of the Confederate flag and yell, color would be added to the game…” (Collegian, 1941).

In addition to support from local sports writers, Saunders found support within the campus sports structures, specifically with Coach Thistlethwaite, head coach of the University of Richmond, who said, “I’d be proud to be called a ‘Rebel’ and proud to have my team called Rebels” (Collegian, 1941).

This support is very telling of the times as racism and segregation were very much the norm since Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which legally upheld racial segregation in public facilities in its infamous “separate, but equal” doctrine.

Jim Crow laws began flourishing under Plessy v. Ferguson, and African Americans found themselves suffering from unequal access to a variety of things to which white people had access — including a university-level education.

Despite this, Saunders found a surprising amount of pushback, specifically from the student body and alumni. As was reported in the Collegian, “In the student body, Mac Pitt, president, spoke for a large section when he said, ‘Spider born! Spider bred! Spider dead!’’ (Collegian, 1941).

I began to investigate further to reveal more about what eventually happened. What I found was different from what I had expected.

While this article does state that the Pitt spoke for a large section of the student body, upon further research I found this statement was a bit misleading. I discovered this through an article published on October 17, 1941, titled:

“Shall It Be ‘Rebels?”

“The undergraduate can leave college with Rebel banners, Rebel seals, newspaper clippings headed ‘Rebels.’ We think Rebels more appropriate, better headline material, and certainly better for newspapers and cheering. …a change for the better is always welcome” (Collegian, 1941).

From this excerpt, what I gained was that the change from Spiders to Confederates was not as highly contested within the student body as I had previously thought.

Alternatively, I found that true opposition lay with the alumni:

“Graduates of the University of Richmond probably will be hit harder by a change than undergraduates. Alumni walked away with their sheepskins as Spiders. They left with Spider banners, Spider seals; newspaper clippings headed ‘Spiders.’ They feel an attachment for the name that the average student will not have if he recognizes that the term has been officially forgotten” (Collegian, 1941).

I was both surprised and disappointed.

When I read of opposition to the proposed change, I had hopes that it was because of the sense of the history of racism “Confederates” evoked. Contradictory to my beliefs, both articles highly suggested that opposition came more from comfort and pride in tradition, rather than actual racial progress.

Regardless, it was very interesting to find how much our campus environment reflected the larger Richmond scope on race and race relations.

Although the articles did not necessarily weave a tale about race relations, we can gather much of the story ourselves through the silence, instead. These silences tell us that, in 1941, race was not a major part of these students lives, and in place were conversations on tradition, sports, and southern pride.

Joshua Hasulchan Kim is from Colonial Heights, Virginia. He is a sophomore at the University of Richmond who is double majoring in Journalism and French. Joshua is involved in various clubs on campus: He is the co-president of Block Crew dance crew, the opinions editor for the Collegian newspaper, and is the Co-Director of Operations for the Multicultural Lounge Building Committee. Joshua developed this blog post as part of his work on a Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387). He is currently expanding this research with the support of an A&S Summer Research Fellowship.

This Week in the Archive: Appreciation or Appropriation?

By Joshua Kim

“Semi-classical tunes, Negro Spirituals and service songs will highlight the Pop concert to be given by the Westhampton and Richmond College glee clubs…” (Collegian, 1942).

On November 13, 1942, The Richmond Collegian featured a small article describing an event in which the Westhampton and Richmond Glee Clubs would host a pop concert featuring a variety of songs, including “Negro Spirituals.” The first question that came to mind was, “Why is a club, composed of white people, singing Negro spirituals?”

Negro spirituals were an integral part of slave culture. Spirituals were a way for black slaves to express their joy, their sorrow, and their hope for freedom. Some argue that spirituals were codified protests of slavery. Perhaps the most famous of these is Go Down, Moses:

“When Israel was in Egypt’s land
Let my people go
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand
Let my People go

Go down, Moses
Way down in Egypt’s land
Tell old Pharaoh
Let my people go”

This song was most famously used by Harriet Tubman who used it during her various trips to the South as a means to identify herself to slaves. To slaves, Israel represented the North where they could obtain freedom from the “Pharaoh,” the white slave owner. Tubman was the Moses of her time, traveling way down into Egypt’s land, down the Mississippi, in order to help over 300 slaves escape.

To many, these spirituals hold an intimate story; they weave a tale of peril and suffering, of escape and new life. These spirituals are a testament to the black struggle. They are not for white people, let alone any other race, to sing.

Yet, both glee clubs have a history of singing Negro spirituals — the last archived occasion being in 1955.

This begs the question: Why? Why did these groups of white men and women feel compelled to sing Negro spirituals? What about these spirituals did they identify with?

Today, we face a complex debate on cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation. From music, to fashion, to even hair styles, the act of white people doing, and being praised for, things that black people have been doing for years has found itself in what seems like every aspect of political discourse.

Although our various acapella groups no longer sing Negro spirituals, this does not mean that our campus is free of this problem of cultural appropriation. In 2016, a white student dressed as a “Native-American” for a Halloween party causing a large debate about cultural appropriation to resurface within the student body.

What these concerts and costumes reveal, however, is not a vehement attack against black people or ethnic minorities in general, but rather an unconcerned ignorance of cultures outside the dominant white culture that has established itself at the University of Richmond.

There is no proof as to whether these students had a certain agenda behind their choices, yet it is very telling of the ignorant nature behind these choices. It is quite problematic when a group of white students, attending a university in the former capital of the Confederacy, decide to sing songs that were inspired by the oppression that black slaves faced under white rule.

 

Joshua Hasulchan Kim is from Colonial Heights, Virginia. He is a sophomore at the University of Richmond who is double majoring in Journalism and French. Joshua is involved in various clubs on campus: He is the co-president of Block Crew dance crew, the opinions editor for the Collegian newspaper, and is the Co-Director of Operations for the Multicultural Lounge Building Committee. Joshua developed this blog post as part of his work on a Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387). He will be continuing his research with the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project during Summer 2017 with the support of an A&S Summer Research Fellowship.

 

This Week in the Archive: “Playing Indian”

By Joshua Kim

“Watchful waiting, sleepless nights, and “Injun” scalping, but for the scalping on the football field held tomorrow, will come to a glorious climax tonight when the leaping flames of the largest Thanksgiving bonfire ever built by the student body will proclaim to the campus and the nearby city of Richmond the intentions of the Spider squad at tomorrow’s annual game” (Collegian, 1940).

These are the first lines of an article found in the University of Richmond Collegian newspaper–dark, ominous sentences describing a metaphorical scalping of “Injuns.” The word “Injun” dates back to the early 1800s, a slang term to describe indigenous people in the U.S. It is now recognized as outdated and offensive, a calculated mispronunciation of the word “Indian” as a means to mock indigenous people.

The article discusses a rivalry between Richmond and William & Mary in which the teams enthusiastically participate in multiple events, such as a cheer out, a bonfire celebration — with cheerleaders and a marching band — and a mock scalping, all grossly misconstrued variations of “indigenous”culture.

“Along with other pre-game activity came the capture Monday night of 18 boldly brazen Indian braves…but the Spiders…left silent testimony of their victory with the effect of slashing shears on Indian scalps” (Collegian, 1940).

Although we don’t practice mock scalpings anymore, we still find plenty of problematic behavior within our student body.

On October 24, 2016, the University of Richmond Collegian published an article describing how a student government senator posted a photo of himself dressed as a “Native American.” His costume consisted of a Washington Redskins jersey, feathers in his hair, and red paint on both his arms and face (Collegian, 2016).

Seventy-six years later, we find ourselves continuing to perpetuate harmful stereotypes of indigenous people. Although they are unique cases, we must address the similarities between the two events, namely the role of power structures.

After further research of the 1940s event, I was unable to locate anything to suggest that the Richmond students who had kidnapped and “scalped” the 18 William & Mary “Indians” ever faced any form of punishment from the university.

This suggests that the University of Richmond either did not care about, or approved of, its students’ problematic, faux-Indian traditions, even participating themselves:

“President F. W. Boatwright of the University of Richmond and President John Stewart Bryan of William and Mary spoke from their respective schools at a joint radio rally held last night over station WRVA” (Collegian, 1940).

What we see here is a power structure openly supporting the harmful misrepresentation of an underrepresented group, but this should not come as a surprise as playing “Indian,” and cultural appropriation in general, was commonplace in the 1940s.

A week before the Collegian had posted its article about the RCSGA senator in redface in 2016, the senator resigned from his position.

With such a pertinent issue at hand, it would have seemed as if the senator would have faced harsher punishment from both student government and from the university, but instead he quietly resigned, and the matter almost instantly disappeared.

While some would say that justice had been served, others would disagree.

For its article, the Collegian interviewed several people, including Richmond alumnus Young Brinson, a member of the Cheroenhaka Nottoway tribe of Virginia. In the article, Brinson expressed her frustration with the event, pointing out that her culture was not someone else’s costume. Furthermore, she touches on the subject of the usage of Indigenous culture as mascots in sports culture, and the hypocrisy with American perspective on what is, and is not racist:

“Having a football team named Redskins is disrespectful on a historical level when they used to call us that on a derogatory level,” Brinson said. “You would never see a team with blackface as their mascot. So why are you doing this to us? It’s disrespectful” (Collegian, 2016).

Brinson brings up a very fair point: If the senator had been caught in blackface, would he have faced harsher consequences from the university?

From what we may garner from the university’s reaction, the answer is yes because the university does not acknowledge the violent history that they once exemplified towards the indigenous population.

Almost a century later we find ourselves reflecting the same attitude and behavior towards indigenous people as we did in 1940. This is quite contradictory to the image the university portrays.

The university advertises itself as a campus of culture, one that boasts a diverse student population, but how can it say that when it has not learned from its past?

This is a very troubling question, but what it leads me to believe is that it is not the fact that redface is less offensive, but rather the lack of exposure to indigenous culture has silenced indigenous oppression, leading non-indigenous students to commit these acts in complete ignorance.

According to the Collegian article, only 0.3 percent of students at Richmond identified as American Indian or Alaska Native in 2014 (Collegian, 2016). Compare this to 6.1 percent Asian, 7.8 percent Black/African American, and 7 percent Latino, and you can see that the indigenous population on campus is a minority group within a minority group.

Consequently, you can see how difficult it must be for indigenous students to organize and educate the culture at Richmond.

Does this mean that the lack of representation of indigenous students is justification for the offensive acts? Absolutely not. With the access to resources we have today, there is no reason why college-educated adults should remain uneducated about the subject.

Yet, this is why these findings are so troubling.

Our access to the internet gives us a huge resource advantage over our peers from 1940, yet we continue to appropriate indigenous culture and remain ignorant to their history. Even more troubling is the fact that the power structures at the university are complicit in this ignorance and violence.

President Boatwright rallied the students to victory. The senator was simply allowed to resign.

No justice was pursued. No educational efforts were attempted. Even if the administration found no reason to punish the student, it should have realized that it was the perfect opportunity to educate both the students, and the campus as a whole, about indigenous culture.

What could have been a moment to uplift indigenous voices instead became one that silenced them.

The archive reveals that our past is nothing more than our present, and it will become our future if we do not take active action to stop it.

(More on William & Mary’s history with sports and indigenous culture here).

 

Joshua Hasulchan Kim is from Colonial Heights, Virginia. He is a sophomore at the University of Richmond who is double majoring in Journalism and French. Joshua is involved in various clubs on campus: He is the co-president of Block Crew dance crew, the opinions editor for the Collegian newspaper, and is the Co-Director of Operations for the Multicultural Lounge Building Committee. Joshua developed this blog post as part of his work on a Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387). He will be continuing his research with the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project during Summer 2017 with the support of an A&S Summer Research Fellowship.

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