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"[Being a foreign student] is a responsibility because the student is, in a sense, a representative of his country and his people."
-Abdullah Mina, 1960
Abdullah "Abby" Mina was a student in the Class of 1962 from Kafraiya, Beqaa, Lebanon. He was editor-in-chief of the Messenger, president of the Philologian Society, an active columnist for the Collegian, and an RCSGA senator.
Mina wrote often of his experiences as a foreign student and attempted to bridge the gap between foreign students and American students. These pieces were titled “Mina’s Arena” and were in the Collegian, though one comedic “Mina’s Arena” was published in the 1960 Messenger.
The two featured Collegian columns, "Vicissitudes of Foreign Student Life Are Overrun With Contradictions" and "Confusion Is Found Both Ways," were written to clear misconceptions not only made about foreign students, but by foreign students as well. Mina argues in both that misunderstanding lies at the root of uncomfortable foreign and American student relations. One assumption made about foreign students that he mentions is, "If you praise your own country, you are biased and if you don't praise it, you are unpatriotic." Mina was one of three foreign students to graduate from University of Richmond undergrad in 1962.
In an interview by the University of Richmond Magazine, Abdullah Mina is quoted as saying, “I found that the students and the people in general – let’s refer to it as Southern hospitality – were so nice.” Mina’s status as a foreign student was, for the most part, accepted. He was elected into numerous leadership positions, including student government, and his perspective was given a platform in both the Collegian and Messenger.
However, in the Winter 1960 Messenger that Mina was editor-in-chief of, there is a racist caricature of him in the staff illustration. Mina can be seen in the corner of the illustration in stereotypical Middle Eastern dress, and his nose is exaggerated. The illustration does not resemble him. While other members of the Messenger staff are made fun of based on their interests or own literary works, Mina’s ethnicity was instead the butt of his caricature. Nevertheless, Mina was the editor-in-chief of the magazine at the time, and likely okayed the drawing's publication. This caricature also illuminates what other students at the time saw as the difference between them and Mina: ethnicity, not race. This distinction likely influenced his social acceptance on campus.
While the University and its students were very accepting of Mina and his race did not appear to come into question, it is important to note that the time at which he attended was a tumultuous one in American history. The first black student on the University of Richmond campus was accepted in 1968, a few years after Mina’s graduation. At that point, though, integration had been a topic on students’ minds for over a decade, and it was unquestionably part of the University context during the five years that Mina attended.
The essay “Law and Order,” which was featured in the 1957 Messenger, argues against forced integration because the South, according to the author, was not ready for it at the time. The writer claims that he is “not defending the prejudices of the Southern White” with the essay and shapes his apprehension as fearful of violent confrontation rather than bent on preserving segregation. However, his insistence that racist communities be respected and enabled by the courts exhibits an ignorance of the humanity of the black members of these communities. In the same Winter 1960 Messenger as Mina's caricature, a "thought on segregation" from student Olen Lewis was published that states, "Two brothers may love each other, yet want separate rooms." Similarly to the caricature, it was likely approved for publication by Mina. The quote continues the anti-integration ideology of "Law and Order" from three years prior, an ideology that the Messenger's editorial staff would take a stance against in 1964 with the anti-racist cartoon "Greatest Ventriloquist Act of the Century."