Fam­ily won­ders what to do with racist fam­ily photo

The Sault Star - - LIFE | CLASSIFIEDS - AMY DICK­IN­SON Email: askamy@tri­bune.com Twit­ter: @ask­ingamyt

Dear Amy: I am in a quandary. When my hus­band and his three brothers di­vided up what was left of my in-laws’ pos­ses­sions af­ter my fa­ther-in-law 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-in­law’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 very large 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 have told my chil­dren about it and, while no one is OK with it, they are also torn be­cause it is part of the past that is ap­palling, but their grand­mother is in the photo.

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 (also the host of Find­ing Your Roots, on PBS) 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: The need not to re­peat his­tory.

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: I met a girl at com­mu­nity col­lege. We had two classes to­gether and started talk­ing. We ex­changed phone num­bers. We would talk, and at times I would help her with her home­work.

I hinted that I liked her. I thought she was show­ing the same thing.

She was fin­ish­ing her stud­ies, and I was trans­fer­ring to a four-year school. When the se­mes­ter was over I tried ask­ing her out three times.

The first time she told me she was vis­it­ing fam­ily dur­ing the hol­i­days, the next two times she told me that she had to work.

Our text ex­changes got to the point where she would send me “con­ver­sa­tion end­ing” texts. I would text her, “How are you to­day?” and her re­sponse would be, “Good” — pretty much end­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

At this point I felt that she only used me to help her fin­ish her classes. I let it go, but a month later when I started my uni­ver­sity cour­ses, I get a text from her out of the blue, say­ing things like I was smart and so on.

I imag­ine that she was drunk tex­ting. So I sent her a one-word re­sponse.

It’s been about two weeks since I texted her and I don’t know if I should try again.


Dear Con­fused: It’s pos­si­ble that she was us­ing you for home­work help, but you can’t re­ally know. It sounds to me like your for­mer class­mate liked study­ing and spend­ing time with you, but tried to let you down easy, and then got back in touch to see if you were able to be friends. Now you are blow­ing her off.

It seems like nei­ther of you are get­ting what you want out of this re­la­tion­ship; now that you are at a full-time school, you have op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet new friends and find other po­ten­tial dates. This time, leave the hint­ing at home: If you like some­one, tell them. Then there’s a pos­si­bil­ity of avoid­ing the drama and ac­tu­ally get­ting to go out with a per­son you like.

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. — WOR­RIED PAR­ENT

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.

Dear Amy: “Preg­nant, But Still Able” in­sisted on sit­ting on the floor af­ter a male col­league of­fered her a seat. It is a shame that she felt com­pelled to re­spond to this po­lite ges­ture by rudely re­fus­ing it.


Dear Dis­tressed: The en­tire is­sue (a preg­nant woman in­sist­ing that she NOT be of­fered a seat in a crowded room) is a re­flec­tion of where we are right now. Life is pretty com­pli­cated.

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