Politics

Award-Winning Scientist Gets Canceled Over Her 2009 Halloween Costume

A virologist has been caught in an off-color incident.

‘Til recently, Julie Overbaugh was in leadership at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Additionally, she was on faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

But a startling discovery was lately made: In 2009, she dressed up.

For Halloween.

As Michael Jackson.

Hence, despite having focused 30 years of research on aiding Africans, she’s been accused of racist “blackface.”

In another world — say, ours any time before nearly now — she’d be seen as something of a saint.

In 2016, GeekWire gawked:

Overbaugh has devoted her professional career to studying viral pathogens that cause HIV. But amid publishing papers, running her own research lab, and flying back and forth from Kenya, she has also pursued another professional passion: mentoring. Overbaugh is one of two recipients of this year’s Nature Award for Mentoring in Science, which is awarded to select scientists in one country or region each year.

She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences just last year.

But that was then, and this is woke.

And the Powers That Be have told her to Beat It.

Per The Federalist, she’s been pushed out of her position at Fred Hutchinson. And she’s resigned from the University of Washington.

The party at issue took place at the cancer center’s lab. And her gauche getup wasn’t randomly racist: The shindig’s theme was MJ’s Thriller.

No matter, in mid-January, a photo was anonymously emailed to Fred Hutch’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Senior leadership at the University of Washington and UW Medicine received the image, too.

Fred Hutch has since released a statement.

In part:

The act depicted…is racist, offensive and hurtful, and we offer our sincere apologies to anyone who has experienced pain or upset because of the act or this photo.

In response, we hired an independent, external investigator, and we placed Dr. Julie Overbaugh, the leader in the photo, on an administrative leave of absence while the investigation was under way.

It appears she was found innocent. But she’s still guilty:

The investigator found this was an isolated incident.

Dr. Overbaugh has stepped down from her senior vice president role at Fred Hutch. She will continue working in her lab and will take a hiatus from her leadership duties in the Office of Education & Training. During this time, she will engage in an intensive education and reflection process.

UW Medicine responded as well:

Dressing in blackface has a long history as a racist, dehumanizing, and abhorrent act in the United States. Ignorance of the offensive nature of this behavior was not excusable in 2009 and certainly is not today. [It] was born in the years leading up to the Civil War, peaked between the 1830s and 1870s, and still occurs today. White entertainers would cover their face with black cork or shoe polish to perform minstrels or entertainment shows for white audiences. These shows portrayed Black people as grotesque caricatures of themselves. While white minstrels profited, Black people suffered extreme violence during and after slavery, including racially-motivated intimidation, loss of property, and lynching.

We acknowledge that our community has been harmed by this incident and the fact that 13 years elapsed before action was taken. … Accordingly, we are convening a series of affinity group meetings in the next few weeks to provide spaces for mutual support, reflection, and response.

Oddly, the medical school’s 411 on blackface bears no resemblance to Julie’s offense.

Perhaps more peculiar: As indicated by the man himself, Michael Jackson painted his skin. He suffered splotches of pigment-purging vitiligo, so he employed makeup to create one consistent color.

Clearly, when completely coating himself with cream, he could’ve gone with any shade.

Therefore — depending on the era to which Julie paid homage — it may well be that a cancellation occurred because a white person put on makeup to look like a black person who put on makeup to look like a white person.

More curious yet might be a collision of progressive values. Much has been made over the dearth of women in STEM fields. Which carries more weight — a feminist triumph in a toxically masculine space, or the evil of cosmetics-assisted imitation?

Plainly, blackface prevailed.

Of course, Julie isn’t the first contemporary Caucasian to present as less pale:

Of the above, only Adam abstained from apologizing. Alternately, he did something almost unheard of: He explained.

Per his 2019 tweet, edited euphemistically:

People think I am a racist anyway. I didn’t dress as a random black man. I dressed as Mr.T, who is black. Because I loved Mr.T. If you find that PROBLEMATIC, [jump in a lake].

It appears Julie’s been directed toward that same body of water.

According to UW Medicine — as similarly stated by Fred Hutch — she’s currently “engaged in an intensive education process.”

Will the shamed scientist be educated enough to realize she’s racist?

Hopefully so. Otherwise, her options may be reduced to running Canada:

-ALEX

 

See more content from me:

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Find all my RedState work here.

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