Cartoon in UK’s College Newspaper Spurs Controversy

LEXINGTON, Ky.

An editorial cartoon depicting a bare-chested Black student on an auction block that ran in the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper on Friday has sparked student protest.

A group of more than 100 UK students held a peaceful demonstration on Friday protesting the cartoon, which ran in the day’s edition of the Kentucky Kernel. The newspaper’s editor, and the cartoonist have apologized for the cartoon.

The editorial cartoon depicted a shirtless Black student standing on an auction block with his left leg chained. Meanwhile, a White auctioneer in the cartoon calls the student a “young buck” and gets bids from three fictional fraternities: Aryan Omega, Kappa Kappa Kappa and Alpha Caucasian.

Editor in chief Keith Smiley said the cartoon shouldn’t have been published and “it wasn’t discussed like it should have been.” Smiley said in a telephone interview that the cartoon was attempting to comment on recent campus news.

“It doesn’t matter what it was trying to say because it didn’t say it,” Smiley said. “Anything it was trying to say was lost.”

Students at the protest said they were hurt by the cartoon and said it had affected racial tension on campus.

Wesley Robinson, a Kernel reporter who is Black, participated in the protest. Robinson had covered campus discussions of segregated fraternity and sorority life at the school.

Robinson, from Louisville, said the cartoon gives “the sense that there is a Black slave being bid on by White Greek masters.”

Bradley Fletcher, the cartoon’s artist, apologized in a statement posted on the newspaper’s Web site. Fletcher said he did not realize how the images would be so offensive.

“In attempting to encourage discussion and change in this area, I have ignorantly and inadvertently added to the problem,” Fletcher said in the statement. “And for that I sincerely apologize.”

Students passed out copies of the newspaper and protested in front of the building that houses the newspaper and UK’s journalism program before moving to the campus’ free speech area.

Aria Higgins, a 22-year-old student, wore a sticker that read, “Hello my name is Outraged.” She said students wanted an apology and an explanation.

“Yeah, it’s free speech, but some stuff doesn’t need to be drawn or said,” Higgins, who is president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., said.

Smiley, a senior journalism major, posted an apology on the newspaper’s Web site, and it was also to run on Monday’s front page. The 17,000 circulation newspaper publishes Monday through Friday and is independent of the university.

In his apology posted on the Kernel’s Web site, Smiley said he did not review the cartoon before it was printed, and other editors did not bring it to his attention before publication.

“There is absolutely no excuse for that neglect,” Smiley said.

–Associated Press

 

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