Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

White Imaginings

This page analyzes the ways in which white students imagined Chinese students as an exotic "other." This "othering" materialized into racial slurs and racist language used to describe Chinese students. Racial slurs can be found in all of the documents including "coolie," which is a racial slur that refers to unskilled laborers typically from East Asia, and "chink," which refers to people of Chinese or East-Asian descent. Engaging in such othering of Chinese people shows University of Richmond students perpetuating racist stereotypes held during the time period. All documents in this exhibit feature one-act plays that appeared in The Messenger, the University of Richmond’s literary magazine.


The Son's Father, A Play in One Act by Mary Lucile Saunders

The Messenger, 1931, p.5. "The Son's Father"


Saunders identifies a character's ethnic dress in order to distinguish his clothing. An excerpt from protagonist Charlie's character's description reads, “...he would appear to be a white man were it not for his wearing the costume of his country." Saunders' choice to distinguish Charlie's ethnic clothing suggest there is a level of unfamiliarity. Charlie's ethnic clothing others him, in contradiction to his phenotypical features, which, according to Saunders, might otherwise suggest he is white.


The Silent House

The Messenger, 1929, p.30. Review of "The Silent House"


The reviewer of the play, "The Silent House" (1929), uses racialized language to other those of Chinese descent. The reviewer contends that a white actor (Harold De Becker) plays the role of a "domesticated Chink" well. Chink is a racial slur that refers to people of Chinese or East-Asian descent. Moreover, referring to a person as "domesticated," as the reviewer does of Ho-Fang, is a de-humaninzing term. Domestication refers to a process by which non-human entities become acclimated to new settings. This, in combination with the use of "chink," acts in a way that not only others Chinese people but also reinforces racist stereotypes.





Jade (A play in one act) by Louise Dinwiddie

The Messenger, 1933 p.22. "Jade"


Dinwiddle, Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger, uses descriptive language to distinguish characters as an exotic "other." In the last paragraph on the page, the character description of protagonist Kin-Cho is described as a "yellow-mooned face with an intelligent look." Distinguishing Kin-Cho's skin color as yellow inherently is a comparison to other skin colors. Thus, by referencing his skin color in the character description, Dinwiddle wants Kin-Cho to be identified based off his skin color, an exoticization that distinguishes him from other characters who are not identified based off skin color.

White Imaginings