Ask Amy: Family wonders how to address racist photo.
Dear Amy: When my husband and his three brothers divided up what was left of my in-laws’ possessions after my father-inlaw died, we received the majority of photos. I finally have time to go through and sort them.
In the process, I came upon a very large photo that was taken in 1934 and it showed everyone from my mother-in-law’s Halloween office party.
Almost everyone in the photo is dressed in a costume, and that’s where my problem comes in.
There must be about 50 to 70 people in the photo, and four of them are in black face. Although I am appalled by this, I also feel that it is a piece of my husband’s family history.
I feel it’s something that needs to be addressed, because (to paraphrase a great quote), if we don’t learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it.
— Photo Finished
Dear Finished: I just finished reading an article by prominent African-American scholar and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates on whether artifacts such as this should be kept, or burned in a massive hellfire.
After outlining both sides of the argument, Gates comes down on the side of saving these heinous reminders of racism that Americans have both inflicted and endured, for the exact reason you cite.
You should consider donating this photo to an archive that will place it into context. Harvard University houses an extensive collection called: “Image of the Black in Western Art archive,” comprised of over 26,000 images, some of which are quite obviously and overtly racist. You should also discuss this openly in your family; it is a perfect illustration of how racism is shot through our country's history, revealed even in something as benign as an office Halloween party.
Dear Amy: “Worried Mom in California” was freaking out because she found a vaping unit in her daughter’s purse. Thank you for discussing the unknown health risks of vaping.
Dear Worried: Vaping has become an increasing challenge in high schools. Parents should be aware of this, but no, I don’t think they should freak out.
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