Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Representations of Students of Color

Students of color at the University of Richmond were most visible in discussions by their white counterparts. In this way, the voices of students of color were almost entirely absent from narratives about them. In each instance, students of color were cast within a framework of subtle racism, based on ideological differences and the notion of "otherness." This "otherness" assumed unchangeable and fixed notions about students of color, which will be explored below. 

Six Students from Hong Kong Add Oriental Flavor to WC

Item #322. "Six Students from Hong Kong Add Oriental Flavor to WC," The Collegian, October 16, 1959.

 

 

This article in the Collegian from fall of 1959 introduces six new Westhampton students from Hong Kong. Immediately with the opening title, the six women are reduced to their ethnic identities and how the "flavor" of their identity adds to the college. The term flavor, in particular, typifies the perception of Asian students on campus as an ethnic "other." To quote bell hooks, "ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture." Their academic talents are not discussed, nor why they chose to go to Westhampton College. Almost all of the women are even physically separated from the campus, living together downtown rather than in the dormitories. They were grouped together and given no voice, adding nothing more than "international spice" to Westhampton College.

The article begins with the phrase "take a little international spice, Chinese, add a college campus, Westhampton, and flavor results in six petite, Oriental additions to the freshman class." While this article itself is not explicitly negative, it is from the start an exemplar of subtle racism, reducing the women to their ethnicity, making several assumptions about them as a result. The title (Item #322) labels the women "oriental" and falsely states that they are all from Hong Kong when in fact one of the women, Joyce Wan-Jung Chan, was from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Even though Chan self-identified as Brazilian, the Collegian forced her to be identified as Asian because she was born in Hong Kong. The author of the Collegian article, Judy Wilburn, also answered the unasked question of whether or not the women knew each other before arriving in Richmond, which they did not. Like the assumption that all the women were from Hong Kong, it was assumed that all the women knew each other beforehand because of their shared ethnic identity and place of origin. 

Letter to Eva Wong from Marguerite Roberts

Item #326. "Letter to Eva Wong from Marguerite Roberts," March 16, 1963.

Ruling Divides Opinion: The Racial Question

Item #320. "Ruling Divides Opinion: The Racial Question," The Collegian, March 29, 1963.

In March of 1963, student Eva Wong brought her friend, a black student from Union Theological Seminary, to the Westhampton Song Contest. After she invited him, she asked the University for permission and was denied. Wong brought her friend anyway, and as a result was placed on indefinite disciplinary probation by the school.

The disregard for Wong by the University is apparent from the very beginning of a letter sent to Wong by Westhampton Dean Marguerite Roberts (Item #326), in which he misspells Wong's last name, "Wang." Wong was also threatened with the removal of her scholarship unless she fulfilled "all the requirements, which includes carrying out the policies of the University." The policies in question, which President George Modlin refers to in Item #320, an article about Wong's situation, was  that University policy was to keep "conditions similar to those in students' homes and churches...." While that statement may sound innocuous, it is coded language for keeping black students out of predominantly white spaces. The University campus was predominantly white, and Wong threatened that not only by being Asian but by bringing a black student to a campus event. As a result, she was placed on probation and threatened with losing her scholarship, and largely represented as a rule breaker who disobeyed University policy. 

HEW Angers RC Freshman

Item #304. "HEW Angers RC Freshman," The Collegian, October 23, 1970.

In this letter to the editor of the Collegian from October 1970 (Item #304), Richmond College Freshman William Norris argued against a recent proposal from the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). HEW suggested that universities undertake measures to attract more non-white students.

Students of color are absent from this article in that Norris never explicitly mentions black students, but it is implicit within his writing that Norris thinks that creating space for black students in higher education would, "destroy education for the sake of a numerical ratio." To Norris, there are no students of color who could meet the current academic standards, and that changes should be made at the "pre-college" level instead. Students of color were painted by Norris as a threat to society. 

Representations of Students of Color