As I read this article I tried to place myself in history and did the math: my family moved from Chapel Hill, NC -- where my step-dad was working on his masters and PhD at UNC and Duke, respectively -- at about the same time that black students were finally being admitted to Duke. I was 15, just starting high school.
Dr. Peterson wrote this article after the Duke University Athletic Department announced earlier this month that it had removed a photo of a Women's Lacrosse Team player in blackface at a Halloween party from its website:
For those that do not know, I am a proud graduate of Duke University (Class of '93). As a black alumnus of one of the greatest universities in the world with a troublesome history with race and racism, I am often treated to the highs and lows of the Duke experience. Last week was no different as members of the Duke University Black Alumni Committee reached out to me to begin the process of organizing an event featuring myself, Grant Hill, Nia-Malika Henderson and others to commemorate the 50-year celebration of the presence of black students at Duke -- yes, it's only been 50 years. Duke beat Kentucky -- i.e. Duke men's basketball beat the University of Kentucky -- and this is always good. But in addition to these great moments -- moments that make me proud to be a Duke grad, we were once again treated to the insensitive (and now common) practice of white undergraduates who "dress up" as black characters and blacken up their faces in order to do so. Sigh.
In the full article Dr. Peterson includes a brief history of blackface minstrelsy as a demeaning and destructive practice in the United States. This was really interesting to me, but disconcerting as well as I recalled participation of family members in such activity back in the fifties...not to mention Little Rascals and all kinds of other Hollywood portrayals of black people that I grew up watching.
BTW, I'm about ready to launch a series of reflections on my experience of racism, white privilege and exploration of social healing practices in relation to racism in the US. Now that the pressure of the 2012 election is off, I'm feeling new energy around talking about this stuff.