Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

SAPAC now?

22. October 2004 • MarkDilley
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From an email:

“A pictures [sic] of a banner for Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) displayed in the Diag (you can see it if you are walking towards the Dana Building). The organization used “black face” to promote there [sic] Speak Out Event. This is offense [sic] to the African/African-American community and is clearly UNACCEPTABLE.”

For more info check out SAPAC Must STAY and Our Voices Count



  1. Now, maybe I’m just crazy but I’m pretty sure the good people at SAPAC didn’t mean that poorly-drawn image to represent “blackface.” Just a hunch.
       —Brandon    Oct. 22 '04 - 04:11PM    #
  2. I strongly believe that it was not this organization’s intention to present an offensive image in any way and most certainly not in “blackface”. It is unfortunate that they are being vilified for this misunderstanding.
       —Lauri    Oct. 23 '04 - 03:01PM    #
  3. Whether meant or not-and I doubt it was “meant”-, still, it was a little clumsy, n’est-ce pas?
       —David Boyle    Oct. 23 '04 - 04:48PM    #
  4. According to a friend of mine: “Yes, the idea is indeed that the face is in black because it’s in shadow/hidden/whatever, the same way that the Silent Witness Exhibit uses silhouettes of domestic violence victims, to show both the fact that domestic violence can happen to anybody, and that we often have no idea who experiences these crimes. The lips are red because it’s Speak Out, so the idea is that, even if you don’t “have a face”, i.e, your confidentiality and anonymity are preserved, you have a voice – your words can be used to help others. For example, at Speak Out, you can go into a different room and speak from there. No one can see you, but your voice is piped into the room with the audience, so everyone can hear you. That’s why the banner looks the way it does, I assume (I wasn’t involved in its creation at all).”

    Damn they are evil over there.

    And David, I really don’t think it’s that clumsy… if that drawing instantly triggers thoughts of minstrel shows in your head, you’ve gotta be looking pretty hard.
       —Brandon    Oct. 23 '04 - 05:31PM    #
  5. Blackface or no blackface, I am nevertheless deeply touched to hear that people enough care about these issues to take a stand. These past nine months have been an especially difficult time in my life. I will be at the Speakout on Tuesday. It is my great privilege for this opportunity. Anonymity has rendered us invisible, for way too long. TUESDAY 7-9PM UNION BALLROOM. Thank you for your kindness and support.
       —Anne Chi    Oct. 24 '04 - 10:44AM    #
  6. This organization has worked for years to help survivors of sexualized violence and educate the community. It’s sad that these unreasonable and unfounded claims are taking attention away from such an important event.
       —Eric    Oct. 24 '04 - 01:36PM    #
  7. It is sad that they let somebody who can’t paint create their banner.
       —joey rodent    Oct. 25 '04 - 07:42AM    #
  8. Im assuming Brandon is not African American because if you were, you would have taken notice of the image immediately and thought Black face. White privilege? Maybe… then again, I can’t identify your race.

    Im extremely disheartened that you would continously defame this organization (for those who have picked up their picket signs and began shouting). Do you enjoy controversey just for the sake it. Are you without fault yourself? without mistake? You should really reconsider your intentions of throwing stones because your own “glass house” will come under questioning.

    SAPAC is a wonderful organization that has a heart to serve those who have been victims of Sexual Violence.
       —anonomyous    Oct. 25 '04 - 01:10PM    #
  9. Anonymous, I’m White (proudly Dutch-American to be exact), so I can’t comment, I guess. Why does one think of the practice of “blackface” in particular, then, rather than seeing at as a caricatured African-American? Just curious.

    Most importantly, I agree with you and the above posters that such an attack on SAPAC over this is flimsy and unwarranted… luckily the Daily hasn’t blown this up into “news” yet.
       —Brandon    Oct. 25 '04 - 04:57PM    #
  10. For those of you that don’t recognize it as black face, consider yourselves priviledged and sheltered. I highly doubt the creators of the banner intended to do harm, however, that doesn’t mean they’re excused. It highlight’s the individual’s lack of racial/historical understanding. Brandon, you may wish to take a few more “R/E” classes or consider an American History/CAAS course to inform yourself.
    The banner should have been taken down immediately with an apology attached. It could easily have been replaced with a new, more appropriate banner and preserved the attention on the event itself, not the “mistaken” racial insults.
       —another anonymous    Oct. 26 '04 - 10:51AM    #
  11. Brandon, “black face” and African American culture are interrelated (by no fault of Black folks might I add). Black face derived from the consciousness of White America and how they percieved the African and African American culture, which resulted in Minstrel shows, and numerous other acts that negatively depicted a race of people. Black face was also a tool used to maintain dominance over African American with the thought being “if we can dehumanize Blacks, we are justified in the ways that we treat them”.

    To bring it to something that’s more pervasive in American culture at this time: White America (and I make no apologies for grouping all Whites together because even if you’re not perpretrating this behavior towards a minority group, you are definitely reaping the benefits of those in your race that are, hence the term “white privilege because it is just that…privilege)is justifying attacks against innocent civilian because they have deemed them to be “axis of evil”. What the aforementioned term does is objecties a person or a group of people where as you no longer consider them to be a group of people with names, faces, personalities, dreams, goals, etc. It’s done to take or maintain power.

    The depiction of black face has the same stinging feeling as the phrase “axis of evil” for the group that it’s perpretrated against.

    I would encourage you to keep inquiring and searching for truth!
       —anonomyous    Oct. 26 '04 - 12:13PM    #
  12. Okay anonoymi, I have a History BA from our fine university, and I know the sordid history of blackface and racism in this country. Apparently my white privilege is indeed blocking the triggering reaction of recognition that apparently is spread beyond just the intial email-writer. My biggest problem was the accusatory nature of both the email and frankly Mark’s post (which notably linked to Our Voices Count), which seemed to be latching onto this as more ammunition to paint SAPAC in a negative light by linking this to recent concerns about the center’s (coming/recent) changes. I think the implication of intent was what really got under my (white) skin. Just trying to provide my own knee-jerk counterbalance to the sometimes over-the-line “progressive” knee-jerking (I feel strangely conservative around here sometimes). In any case, it looks like SAPAC has acknowledged their drawing may have been interpreted as offensive by some, and have removed it. I don’t want to make light of racist depictions, but at the same time wanted to stand up for SAPAC, as doing-so is in short supply these days.
       —Brandon    Oct. 26 '04 - 12:18PM    #
  13. Understand this: not everyone is in complete and total knowledge of the symbolic meaning of the black silhoutte and the lips represented in the banner as you may be (understand that the mini protest isn’t about you and what you know…)so in saying that, SAPAC had a ethical responsibility to take down the banner, period! I think that we both agree that it wasn’t SAPAC’s intentions to create the controversal image but it was created nonetheless and whatever feelings or positions that may have surfaced are real and were experienced by real people, thus putting the ball back in SAPAC’s court to address the issue.

    Case in point: If I leave my house in the morning in my car and I get into an accident with you, understand that when left my house, it wasn’t my intentions to hit you, but you’re going to hold me accountable nonetheless. Same issue, different scenario.
       —anonomyous    Oct. 26 '04 - 12:41PM    #
  14. ...and moreover, by addressing the issue, SAPAC is removing any road blocks that may hinder someone from soliciting services from them and that’s SAPAC’s first priority, to have an open door to all.
       —anonomyous    Oct. 26 '04 - 12:44PM    #
  15. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
    Did SAPAC’s banner have another, unintended meaning? Sure.
    Did they do the right thing by affirming that they had no intention of promoting a historical anachronism, one that has been dispensed with by all thinking people? Yes.
    Does the inerring moaning of those who choose to be offended equal true offense? No.
    Yeah, it’s white privilege for me to say so. Quit your fucking whining. Why? It’s masturbatory political correctness. Were black people truly maligned in this isntance? If you say yes, you’re not only affirming the reactionary stereotype of the liberal academic, you’re continuing the subjegation of minorities in the racist system.
    Oh no, I hear the cry. I’m just another racist bastard trying to hold your heads down. Fuck that, you sissies. An African-American who cannot see that context informs our system of symbolic communication is either a fool or an opportunist, and trying to trump up outrage over this is more harmful than whatever offense you may feel at the imagery. Get the fuck over it.
    A car accident is only a viable analogy tangentially, as Michigan is a no-fault state. This is a no-fault bit of racist echo, not a racist act. Where is the crime? In negligence?
    To bitch and moan over accepting that and moving on is why true dialogue slides into demagogery, you anonymous cowards.
    To extend this via ad hominem, this is the same reason that affirmative action discussions cannot be fruitful under the aegis of extended victimhood— the goal of affirmative action should be its removal. The goal of removing racism from discourse should be the irrelevence of racist symbology. To bemoan the mote instead of the beam is to be a friend of the continued systemized racism, and to manufacture outrage instead of harvesting it.
    SAPAC’s goal should, as the other anonomy put it, to encourage all in need to seek its services, and to that end this banner should be removed. But the high dudgeon of the derision here is both flawed and harmful, and anyone who seeks to blame that on white privilege is more blind than those who made the banner.
    (And further, to group all whites due to privilege denies self-awareness in whites. Which dehumanizes us just as saying that no negro should be offended by this because they don’t have the education to understand it. And fuck you if you don’t see the irony.)
       —js    Oct. 27 '04 - 10:20PM    #
  16. “Negro”??
    Also: not only was the last post hostile, it was a little long for someone urging others to “forget about stuff”...
       —David Boyle    Oct. 28 '04 - 09:37AM    #
  17. To: David.
    Re: “negro.”
    Body: See comment on irony. Offensive language was intentionally chosen.
       —js    Oct. 28 '04 - 02:24PM    #
  18. Re: “irony”—so, returning full circle to the original SAPAC theme, I suppose my own rape could be considered an “accident,” i.e. oops wrong place wrong time, and the idea that “Michigan is a no-fault state” is so fitting in this case it just absolutely blows my mind. So rape is nobody’s fault, what a concept!
    Re: “forget about stuff”—yeah yeah I’m working on it.
    Re: “anonymous cowards”—coward, perhaps. Anonymous, on the other hand, I most certainly am not. Rape survivors are not merely hypothetical figments of collective imagination, we really truly exist. Damaged goods, in the flesh and blood.
       —Anne Chi    Oct. 28 '04 - 07:55PM    #
  19. “Were black people truly maligned in this isntance? If you say yes, you’re not only affirming the reactionary stereotype of the liberal academic, you’re continuing the subjegation of minorities in the racist system.”

    These were the words of Js, correct? So tell me, how can you accuately assesst if something truly maligned another individual? If you can’t answer this, your entire email is without merit.

    I believe it’s truly damaging to tell a group of people to “just get over it” especially if you haven’t been subjected to the negative behavior perpetrated against them.

    As far a white priviledge is concerned, yes, you’re correct in stating that the comment made is a blanket statement for all white but answer me this: With you being conscious of the priviledge that’s affored to whites, do you still operate in it? Take advantage of i? Are you willing to compromise your priviledge since you’ve made known to the world that you’re conscious of it? It’s one thing not to truly understand white priviledge but it’s something completey different to know, understand it’s oppressive nature and continue to operate in it being fully aware of what it does to other non-white groups (yeah, I can hear you saying, we all to some degree operate out of a level of priviledge…but Im talking about YOU since you were extremely adament about making that point, js:)

    Think about it!

    p.s.-you might want to reconsider the fowl language, it just wasn’t necessary.
       —just curious    Oct. 29 '04 - 11:33AM    #
  20. Anne, I don’t believe that js was in any way referring to rape as an “accident”, or directing his comments at you or at rape survivors as a group. I didn’t read his comments as having any relation to you.

    Perhaps a more accurate way of applying js’s comments to a rape survivor would be to say, “the banner’s similarity to blackface is a totally unintentional and innocent coincidence, just as my wearing a jacket that happens to be similar to the one that your attacker was wearing is a total coincidence, and not in any way meant as a reference to that crime, let alone support or approval of it.”
       —Murph    Oct. 29 '04 - 01:38PM    #