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Family wonders what to do with racist family photo

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-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 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.

Confused

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.

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