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‘I was stupid’ says University of Richmond alum in racist 1980 yearbook photo

RICHMOND, Va. — University of Richmond president Ronald Crutcher has addressed a photo that appeared in university’s 1980 yearbook.

The image in question appeared to show an African-American man with noose around his neck, surrounded by a group of people wearing white Ku Klux Klan robes. The man is smiling and holding a beer in the photo.

The image was tweeted Wednesday night by Richmond Times Dispatch reporter Katy Burnell Evans who was researching college yearbook photos amid the Virginia blackface political scandal.

Michael Kizzie is the man shown in the photo.

As first reported by The Collegian reporters Arrman Kyaw and Lindsay Emery, Kizzie admitted to posing for the picture at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat party.

“I recall nothing about it – all i can see is that’s me. What day it was, what weather it was, or what time it was, I have no knowledge of that,” Kizzie told CBS 6 by phone Friday.

Kizzie said he was about 20 or 21 at the time and couldn’t recall who was wearing the KKK robes.

“My intent and main point I want to make is: this picture was not represented of the culture of University of Richmond while i was there. This is something that is viewed today differently when you look at it 40 years ago. People change and become more sensitive to things, but this was at a party and not intended to portray any type of racial division. There were young people just being stupid like myself dressed in the wrong clothes and holding the wrong things,” he recalled.

Kizzie earned his history degree and played basketball for the University of Richmond. The 59-year-old said he never felt threatened while in college.

“I have never in my entire four years there experienced a racial incident that disturbed me while i was at the University of Richmond,” Kizzie explained.

President Crutcher said in a statement:

“Last night we became aware that a racist yearbook image had been shared on social media. The image that was shared from the yearbook is repulsive to us. Images of this sort, and the behavior and attitudes they represent, are appalling and antithetical to the values of the University today. No one should have to experience the pain caused by such vile images, or evidence of such behavior, either at the time the incident occurs or thereafter.

Such images reflect a past that must be reconciled and understood. We do not intend to forget or erase those moments. Rather, we must examine and understand our history so that we may become the more inclusive community we aspire to be.

We know that we have work to do in our community in this respect, and I am grateful to the many faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are dedicated to fulfilling this responsibility. Our ongoing work includes teaching, scholarship, research, and oral histories that confront historical issues of racism and discrimination directly and honestly.

This need is also the reason that fostering a thriving and inclusive community is central in the strategic plan, why the Commission on University History and Identity is exploring how our history has been recorded and will help us communicate that history more inclusively, and why the President’s Advisory Committee on Making Excellence Inclusive will soon issue their report on what we can do to make the University an exemplary intercultural community.

We have no intention of varnishing our history. We are committed to understanding the dark and troubling moments of our past and learning from them. As an institution of higher education, our students — past, present, and future — deserve no less.”

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