These stories tell me who I am

by Cory Schutter

Cory Schutter is a Class of 2019 graduate from Midlothian, Virginia. He double majored in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). He was a Bonner Scholar, a Center for Civic Engagement Ambassador, and a Student Coordinator at UR Downtown. He began his involvement with the Race & Racism Project in the summer of 2017, as an A&S Summer Fellow, then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. The post below is the written text of Cory’s speech at the 2018-2019 Lavender Graduation, sponsored by the Office of Alumni and Career Services, LGBTQ Spiders Alumni Group, and the Office of Common Ground. The event took place on April 11, 2019. 

2019 Lavender Graduation, with Cory Schutter in the center.

On a crisp October day 42 years ago, Anita Bryant came to the Robins Center to perform a “concert of sacred music.” The program was sponsored by the Richmond Area Baptist Associations, and did not claim a connection to any campus ministries. In protest, Richmond Citizens for Gay and Lesbian Rights organized a corresponding rally at Monroe Park, to educate and support L and G Richmonders. And a UR alum challenged her, wearing a “gay and proud” tshirt.

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This Week in the Archive: That’s What You Think

by Destiny Riley

Destiny Riley is a Class of 2019 graduate from Maumelle, Arkansas, majoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies and double minoring in Sociology and American Studies. Destiny first contributed to the Race & Racism at UR Project during an independent study course in the Spring of 2017, and then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. This post was written as part of a Spring 2019 independent study with the Race & Racism Project.

From the late 1980s to the late 2000s, the Collegian published a feature series titled “That’s What You Think.” The series, consisting of the responses from five people to a posed question also included a picture of each respondent most of the time. The respondents ranged from students to professors. While many of the questions prompted lighthearted responses, such as ones discussing Vanilla Ice, others prompted much more complex, and often problematic, responses. These features provided insight into people’s thinking throughout various years and decades. Not only did the features shed light on the University community’s critiques of the University, but also illuminated people’s problematic views on topics such as homosexuality and gender stereotypes. One of the articles that caught my attention in this series posed the following question: What do you think about race relations at UR?

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Enduring Value

by Cory Schutter

Cory Schutter is a Class of 2019 graduate from Midlothian, Virginia. He double majored in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). He was a Bonner Scholar, a Center for Civic Engagement Ambassador, and a Student Coordinator at UR Downtown. He began his involvement with the Race & Racism Project in the summer of 2017, as an A&S Summer Fellow, then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. This post was written as part of a Spring 2019 independent study with the Race & Racism Project.

I spent the summer of 2017 as a fellow for the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project x UntoldRVA collaboration, an experience which shifted the way I viewed the impact of an archive on a community. Summer fellows had the opportunity to perform close-reads of local Richmond stories and trace these accounts back to materials from the public archive.

At the end of the summer, project alum Catherine Franceski and I found ourselves next to a whirring microfilm machine at the Library of Virginia. A footnote in James Sidbury’s book Ploughshares into Swords had us questioning some assumptions we had made about a late eighteenth century Black dentist named Peter Hawkins.

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Creating Our Own

by Destiny Riley

Destiny Riley is a Class of 2019 graduate from Maumelle, Arkansas, majoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies and double minoring in Sociology and American Studies. Destiny first contributed to the Race & Racism at UR Project during an independent study course in the Spring of 2017, and then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. This post was written as part of a Spring 2019 independent study with the Race & Racism Project.

https://memory.richmond.edu/files/original/1519467634636ac44938c799563c22b7.JPGSince the spring semester of 2017, I have continued to gain experience working with archival material, thanks to the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Throughout my time working in the archives, the silencing and marginalization of Black people has become more and more apparent to me. Last year, my research group created an exhibit titled “Resistance and Compliance” for the Project’s website in which we explored the controversy around the University’s compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the efforts it made to progress in terms of integration. During my research, I found a Collegian article titled “Black and White.” In this article, the author discussed the University’s path to integration, claiming that many current students were in favor of integration. The reason was that they felt they deserved to get a chance to experience the “educated Negro,” rather than the negative depiction of Black people they saw in the media. While it may seem as if white students wished for inclusivity, their reasons for wanting Black students at the University were extremely selfish and blatantly problematic. There are countless articles and documents with this same racist, condescending tone–and much worse–throughout the archives. However, when we discuss documents such as this one, we feel the need to discuss it with a neutral tone, though the tone of these documents are far from neutral.

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This Week in the Archives: What’s in a Mascot Name?

By Cassidy Lowther

On November 28, 1934, The Collegian released an article entitled, “Frosh to Hold Indian Trial at Cheer Rally.” The article discusses the rally presented at the car loop above the stadium in celebration of the rivalry between the University of Richmond and the College of William and Mary. Some of the plans for this Thanksgiving Day gridiron classic included widely-known speakers who were expected to delve into football history and spur Richmond toward a victory. Most notably, however, the article details an “important feature of the program” — the mock trial of the Indian chieftain, “Legrandesadebryantspackbridgers.” If found guilty by vote of the jury, the accused would be hanged, and then hoisted above the huge bonfire structure.

Tracing its origins back to 1896, the William and Mary football team was first nicknamed “The Orange and White” after their team colors (WM). It wasn’t until 20 years later, in 1916, the nickname “Indians” was first referenced in the 1916 edition of the Colonial Echo; referring to the basketball team. Between 1916 and the 1930s, the college logo and nickname continued to change and evolve with W&M earning the title of “Fighting Virginians” in 1923, changing their colors to green, gold, and silver in 1924, and adopting a 17-foot alligator named “Cal” as their mascot in 1927 (WM). However by the late 1930s, the W&M mascot was yet again changed; taking the place of “Cal,” the 17-foot alligator was an Indian pony named WAMPO (WM). Deriving its name from “William and Mary POny,” WAMPO often carried a rider in full Indian attire (WM).

The mock trial of the Indian chieftain originated as a way to rally against William & Mary, rather than against Indian people as a whole; yet, it begs the question: What were the state of relations between Richmond, Virginia and indigenous people at the time? The students of Richmond at the time remained unfazed by such a violent act; this in and of itself, the very action of inaction, speaks to the prevalence of racism. In June 18, 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act, also called the Wheeler-Howard Act, was enacted by the U.S. Congress (Britannica). “Aimed at decreasing federal control of American Indian affairs and increasing Indian self government and responsibility,” the Indian Reorganization Act was a way the United States government attempted to show its gratitude for service to the country in World War I (Britannica). While this act was a step in the right direction, ultimately it was just one small measure towards the ultimate aim of establishing a more equal footing for Native Americans. In spite of the fact that Native Americans were granted citizenship in 1924, many states barred Native Americans from the right to vote until 1957 (America’s Library).

 

Cassidy Lowther graduated from the University of Richmond in May 2017, with a major in Rhetoric & Communication Studies. She is originally from Riverside, Connecticut. She worked on the Race & Racism at UR Project twice throughout her time at the University — first, in Digital Memory & the Archive (Fall 2016), and in an independent study (Spring 2017). Her biggest takeaway from working on the project has been the significance of the initiative’s mission in bringing about the untold history of race and racism at the University.

 

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: How Far Have We Come?

By Destiny Riley

During the 1930s, the University of Richmond’s very own Richmond College Glee Club made quite an impact not only on the Richmond community but also on various communities around Virginia. The Glee Club was led by Charles Troxell. Earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Richmond, Troxell was an oratorio tenor and worked as choral teacher in Richmond, Virginia for many years, beginning in the 1920s. Throughout the city of Richmond, and eventually throughout the state of Virginia, he led the Glee Club as they performed minstrel shows and Negro spirituals. Minstrel shows, which originated in the 1840s, were created and written by White people to perpetuate stereotypes of Black people and were typically done in blackface. Negro spirituals were written by slaves regarding their suffering and despair, and how they would overcome.

Not only was the performances of the Glee Club problematic, so, too, was the overwhelming support from the University and the Richmond community. In an article from the University’s student newspaper, The Collegian, the author describes one instance of the Glee Club performing Negro spirituals as “excellent work,” and a “fine type of presentation” (Collegian 1933). A few months later that same year, another article that detailed a performance by the Glee Club was published in the Collegian. This time, the author discussed the University-sanctioned expansion of the Glee Club’s program and its major success in increasing support of its minstrel shows. The overwhelming support by the University and the Richmond community tells a tale of a longstanding cultural appropriation at the expense of Black people.

Though these articles were published in the early 1930s and performances of minstrel shows and Negro spirituals declined at Richmond after the 1970s, one has to wonder: How does cultural appropriation look today? Also, more specifically, how does cultural appropriation exist and look at the University of Richmond today?

Today, it is not common for groups and organizations to engage in cultural appropriation through the performances of Negro spirituals and minstrel shows. However, there has been a trend over the past few years of White rappers culturally appropriating Black culture in other ways. For example, Australian-born rapper Iggy Azalea exists in popular culture today as a modern-day minstrel. Azalea learned to “make a huge career for herself by mimicking the vocal patterns and phrases of a Southern black girl” (Zimmerman 2014). Azalea is not from the South, nor does her identity have any roots in the South. However, she appropriated Black culture for fame and profit. She does not physically wear blackface, but her appropriation of Black culture classifies her as a modern-day minstrel.

At the University of Richmond today, White rapper “Lil Dicky” provides a fascinating site for discussion. Born David Andrew Burd, rapper Lil Dicky graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Richmond’s E. Claiborne Robins School of Business. Though he may not explicitly acknowledge it, he plays an active role in cultural appropriation in the music industry and popular culture today. In a 2014 interview with New York Hip Hop Radio Station Hot97, Lil Dicky admits that he initially had little interest in rapping, saying that he “started rapping simply to get attention comedically, so [he] could write movies, write TV shows and act” (Lucas G. 2015). This quote exposes the underlying appropriative nature of the rapper’s career. While hip hop originated as a way for Black and Latino communities to relay their stories about injustice, poverty, and racism, rappers such as Lil Dicky have used it as a way to assert their White privilege. Many of the current students at Richmond are avid fans of Lil Dicky, even advocating for him to be one day be the homecoming performer, which poses the question of what that indicates about the University’s views on cultural appropriation today.

It has been over eighty years since the articles about the Richmond College Glee Club were written. The University community, however, still actively supports cultural appropriation at the expense of Black people. The archive presents us with various examples of the University’s problematic views and how they were manifested in the early to late 20th century. Though no organizations on campus are performing in blackface or singing Negro spirituals any more, the support from students for artists such as Lil Dicky raises a vital question: How much have the University’s views on race and cultural appropriation truly progressed?

 

Destiny Riley is a sophomore from Maumelle, Arkansas majoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies and minoring in Sociology. She wrote this blog post in response to research she conducted during her Spring 2017 Independent Study (RHCS 387), during which she developed content for the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Specifically, she was a member of a team that developed the digital exhibit, “Performance & Policy: Construction of Race Through a Musical Lens.”

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: The Jazz Piano

By Aisling Gorman

“Defining jazz is a notoriously difficult proposition, but the task is easier if one bypasses the usual inventory of musical qualities or techniques, like improvisation or swing . . . ethnicity provides a core, a center or gravity for the narrative of jazz, and its one element that unites the several kinds of narratives in use today.”—DeVeaux, “Constructing the Jazz Tradition”

Jazz music originated amongst African Americans in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jazz music developed from the blues genre. This musical form recognized the pain of lost love and injustice and gave expression to facing adversity (PBS.org).

In the beginnings of jazz music, there were no music sheets, instructions or arrangements (The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, 2017). Jazz music was primarily self-taught, and drew upon the African tradition of passing on culture such as music, dance, stories through listening, watching, and recreating (The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, 2017). Due to this, the role models for future jazz musicians were generally of African American descent. Jazz music became a form of expression for African American artists who cultivated and helped spread it. Jazz was music that honored the African cultural traditions of transmission, and yet provided present day African Americans with an outlet from white dominance and oppression.

As jazz music was different, and “raw” in comparison to music genres such as classical music, it was not uncommon in the early 1900s for jazz music to be banned in schools – or just not taught by music teachers. As jazz music was not recognized as “proper” (or sometimes not at all), it was often absent from college campuses (The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, 2017). In the University of Richmond’s literary magazine, The Messenger, there is a piece from 1932 that discusses strange rules at southern college campuses. One of these strange rules is that at the University of Richmond, jazz music was banned from being played on the Grand Piano in the Westhampton Drawing Room. Although the piece does not delve deeper into why jazz music was banned from the piano, this University of Richmond policy is intriguing, as it calls for many questions to be answered. Why was jazz not allowed on the Drawing Room piano? Was it allowed in other places on campus? As jazz music has its roots in African American culture, and many of its prominent figures of the time were of African American descent, this policy also raises the question of whether the ban was driven by racism.

Although mention of the ban on jazz music in The Messenger raises many questions that are difficult to answer, it is possible to try and answer at least some. An article in The Collegian describes the dedication of the Margaret E. James Memorial Music Room. Margaret’s father, Dr. James, donated a fully furnished music room to Westhampton College in 1933. Dr. James donated the room on one condition – that only classical music be allowed on there. However, the Grand Piano was not yet moved into the new room, and was still being kept in the Drawing Room. Although there were many pianos on the University campus, the restriction on the type of music allowed to be played on this specific piano causes us to wonder if this is the same piano as the one that The Messenger refers to? And if so, how did only classical music transform into no jazz music, leaving room for other genres? Another interesting answer to consider is the possibility of the regulation as a means of the university’s efforts to control students’ options regarding what African American music they could perform. By only banning students from playing jazz, a genre that emerged from resistance, the university could have been working to perpetuate white dominance through the policy and restrictions surrounding music.

While many of these questions cannot be answered due to the lack of documents surrounding the policy of the Westhampton Drawing Room Grand Piano, it is still important to question such policy, and to consider the possible reasons for implementing something like this given the background of jazz music and the racial tensions at the time.

Works Cited

DeVeaux, Scott. “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography.” JSTOR, 1991. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. “Jazz Education.” Jazz in America. The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, 2017. Web. 12 Apr. 2017

 

Aisling Gorman is a senior from Hamilton Parish, Bermuda, pursuing a major in Rhetoric & Communications Studies, with a double minor in Anthropology and Sociology. Her biggest takeaway from working on this project, and specifically on past policy at the University of Richmond, is the need to pay closer attention to unquestioned policy, as its implications might reach further than initially apparent. She wrote this post as part of her work on a Spring 2017 independent study (RHCS 387)Read more about University of Richmond Performance & Policy at the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project.

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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