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Law Professor Who Wore Blackface Used to Chair a Diversity Committee

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Professor Nancy Shurtz just wanted to spark a productive discussion. This tax expert and former head of a diversity committee went to a recent Halloween party dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of a memoir, Black Man in White Coat. Shurtz is white. You see where this is going.

There’s been an actual Charge.org petition calling for her resignation from the University of Oregon School of Law, and the school put her on administrative leave. On her end of things, Shurtz published an apology letter obtained by The Register-Guard in a Saturday report. She said she was sorry for dressing up in black makeup, a white coat, and stethoscope. She just wanted to “provoke a thoughtful discussion on racism in our society, in our educational institutions and in our professions.”

In retrospect, my decision to wear black make up was wrong. It provoked a discussion of racism, but not as I intended. I am sorry for the resultant hurt and anger inspired by this event. It is cruelly ironic that this regrettable episode began with my admiration for a book that explores important aspects of race relations in our society, but ended up creating toxic feelings within our community. I intended to create a conversation about inequity, racism and our white blindness to them. Regrettably, I became an example of it. This has been a remarkable learning experience for me.

She apologized to anyone who was “hurt or angered” by the costume, and said she wouldn’t talk anymore until the university’s probe into this is over.

There’s a Change.org petition created to support her, saying “Wearing a costume is protected speech.” As of Saturday afternoon, it has 43 supporters compared to the resignation petition’s 1,099.

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