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Tufts Editor Apologizes For Satire Aimed At Affirmative Action

MEDFORD, Mass. –An editor at a Tufts University conservative journal has apologized for publishing a satirical Christmas carol that ridiculed Black students and campus affirmative action policies.

The controversial carol, entitled, “O Come All Ye Black Folk,” was published in the most recent edition of the Primary Source, which bills itself as “the journal of conservative thought at Tufts University.”

The parody of “O Come All Ye Faithful” calls Black people “boisterous” and proclaims, “Born into the ghetto. O Jesus! We need you now to fill our racial quotas.”

The lyrics also say, “No matter what your grades are, F’s, D’s or G’s, give them all privileged status.”

Douglas Kingman, the journal’s news editor, said the satire was intended to call attention to affirmative action policies that he and other magazine staffers feel are unfair.

“The Primary Source regrets that the purpose of the carol was not clearly communicated. The carol was intended as a satirical criticism of affirmative action and was, in fact, intended as an anti-racist statement,” Kingman said in e-mailed press release.

In a subsequent interview with The Associated Press, Kingman acknowledged that some students may have been offended or hurt by the lyrics.

“We’re sorry,” he said. “Our purpose was not to be hurtful or offend individuals.”

Dinah Jean, a sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., said she was disturbed by the satire even though she is familiar with the journal’s penchant for controversy.

“I was bothered by it. I found it offensive. I understand what the Primary Source does, but I think they crossed the line,” said Jean, who is Black.

Christina Thomas, 18, a Black freshman from Fort Worth, Texas, said, “The reason it’s being made into a big deal right now is because you don’t have many minorities here, and racial tension is a big deal. I think there’s a problem with the general consensus that it’s OK to make fun of things like affirmative action.”

Jeremy Tyler, 20, a White sophomore from Bangor, Maine, said, “I honestly don’t believe that it was intended to be racist. Of course, I could see why they (Black people) would be offended.”

About 8,500 students are enrolled at Tufts, with Black students composing about 7 percent of the undergraduate population. The university, which straddles the boundary between Somerville and Medford, is known for its liberal arts, science and engineering programs.

The controversy prompted a campus government meeting Sunday night at which some students called on the university to stop providing funds to the Primary Source.

Still, there seems to be little appetite for taking any drastic action against the journal. In Monday’s edition of the daily student newspaper, an editorial appeared with the headline, “Carol went too far, but censorship goes further.”

University administrators condemned the carol’s publication as “irresponsible,” but also stopped short of advocating censorship.

“We write to express our outrage,” president Lawrence Bacow wrote in an open letter to Tufts community members and signed by eight deans and vice presidents. “No one should have to endure a verbal attack based on race. We fully recognize freedom of speech on campus, and as administrators, feel compelled to exercise our own freedom to speak out against his offensive act.”

The controversy comes on the heels of a flap involving a conservative campus publication at Dartmouth College.

The Dartmouth Review came under fire two weeks ago for publishing a front-page picture of an American Indian brandishing a scalp with the headline, “The Natives are Getting Restless.” The publication prompted students on the New Hampshire Ivy League campus to protest hate speech. 

–Associated Press


Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 3 reader comments on this story:

“racial expletive”
The term “racial expletive” may be a bit misleading here.  Not to rationalize what was said, but the exact words uttered were “white sh**bag.”  So, the expletive itself was not racial, but was made racial by virtue of the fact that it was preceded by the word “white.”  It could be argued that in Dr. Streamas’ mind, this was an objective description of the person he was speaking to – i.e. he was white, and he was (in Dr. Streamas’ opinion) a “sh**bag”, the latter being a description with which one reasonably can concur without being a racist (especially when one considers the fact that the person to whom it was directed was himself undeniably a racist engaged in an openly racist act).
-Eric C.  Wheeler,

Seattle, WA

“a badly researched republican-centered article”
I am pretty upset with how this article is written because it does very little to interrogate the husk of the matter. And to think I used to subscribe to this journal is astounding. You wrote a badly researched republican centered article, which is a horribly different from the truth. This is not an issue of a couple of rogue professors as you have painted it. You just lambasted two professors who articulate similar rhetoric to this periodical. In essence, the violation committed against those men is analogous to if the virgin Mary lambasted jesus. Yuck! I am done with your lame magazine.

-Pullman, WA

“free speech protects everyone”
It’s important to understand that “offensive” and “insensitive” expression comes from many sources. Consider the campus visits of Khalid Abdul Mohammad who, among other things, called Columbia University “Columbia Jew-niversity in the city of Jew York.” If we give governments and universities the power to punish “bad” expression, does anyone really believe the resulting censorship will be limited to white racists? How likely is it that those in power will censor only themselves?

-Gary Pavela,

College Park, MD

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