Thursday, November 01, 2007

Life imitates art?

The day my review of “Spinning into Butter” showed up in Style, I received an amazingly timely email at my University of Richmond email address. Here’s an excerpt:

“Dear Campus Community,

I was saddened to learn of a report early Sunday morning that students walking in the University Forest Apartments area around 1:00 a.m.witnessed a young white man wearing "a painted black face, a dreadlock wig, baseball cap, big pink lips, and aviator sunglasses." This example of "blackface"--when people wear black makeup in racist caricatures of African-Americans--represents a painful part of our nation's history and culture. It has no place on this campus.

As I've mentioned to students and parents nearly every time I've had the chance, the University of Richmond offers an opportunity to take intellectual risks, risks that we are only willing to take within the safety of our community. Dressing in blackface breaches that sense of trust. It threatens not just some of our members, but the inclusive community we work to secure every day. As a historian of race in America, I work in my classes and scholarship to understand the powerful destructive undertow of our past. As president, I work with colleagues across campus to ensure that our university becomes a more generous and fair-minded community.

At the University of Richmond, diversity and inclusion stand alongside learning as core institutional values. We all have a role to play in translating those values into meaningful action.”

The email was signed by University president Ed Ayers. I was tempted to reply and suggest he send another email encouraging every student to go see “Spinning into Butter.” Does theater address important issues of the day? I’d say the answer to that is pretty clear.


Le Synge Bleu said...

wow. there are some instances where you wish it were merely fantasy and not a reflection of the world around uis - this would be one of those.

Robinitaface said...

I'm probably going to get jumped all over for this - but I wonder if this person's actions were not centered around hate so much, but around sheer college stupidity? Perhaps he simply thought, "Wouldn't it be funny if I dressed up as Lil John for Halloween?" The timing seems to coincide with Weekend Halloween celebrations. I wonder if he didn't get as far as the ramifications of his actions.

Perhaps, even, he sees "non-white" comedians performing on national television in "whiteface" and wonders "What's the big deal? If they're doing it, is it even taboo anymore?"

If this person's actions were racially motivated, I'm certainly not defending them. I'm also not begrudging the comedians the right to do their thing.

Is this kid a racist, or a victim of society's double standards?