Wesley students and Dover community leaders say they hope the anger stirred up by two racially charged cartoons that appeared in the student newspaper can be channeled into a more productive conversation about race on campus.
The two images ran in the Whetstone, which is published in print four times a semester at the Dover college.
One cartoon shows an African-American woman in a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt saying, “Would you look at the time … I’m late for my abortion.”
The second shows a black man in a purple suit and hat standing next to a hoe – a gardening tool. The hoe is saying, “Who is you calling a HOE?” and the man says, “I’m sorry, ma’am, you just look like a HOE.”
The newspaper’s staff did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Both the cartoonist and the editor are black.
Tiffany Griffin, a Wesley senior, said anger over the cartoon spread quickly over social media. The backlash grew loud enough that Wesley’s administration on Monday held a town hall-style event about the cartoon in which President Robert E. Clark III and the Whetstone’s cartoonist and editor spoke with the student body.
Griffin said the meeting quickly turned emotional.”There’s kind of a racial divide at Wesley between the black and white students,” said Griffin, who is active in the school’s black student union. “On Monday, everything just kind of popped open.”
On Tuesday, Clark sent a letter to students saying he had been contacted by “a large number of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members” about the cartoons.
“I was disappointed by the depiction and, as the president of the college, I apologize to everyone in our family, as well as anyone else who viewed and was offended by the depiction,” Clark wrote.
Griffin said she was glad to see Clark apologize and said he has been willing to meet with students over the controversy.
“I believe addressing issues immediately and having an open dialogue is the most constructive way to address such challenging and controversial issues on campus. In doing so, our students learn firsthand both how to exercise their own freedom of speech, the impact they may have on others, and that they must take responsibility for the ideas and opinions they express.”
“I don’t think they realized this many people would be outraged by this,” Griffin said. “A lot of us were wondering why they weren’t expecting it.”But she said some students think administrators didn’t realize at first how seriously the cartoons would offend students. At the forum, for example, Griffin said Clark wouldn’t apologize because the newspaper is independent from the university.
La Mar Gunn, president of the central branch of the state NAACP, said he was “outraged” when he saw the cartoon.
He said he’s pro-life, but said “cartoons and things along those lines are not going to solve the issue.”
Gunn praised Clark and the Wesley administration for how they handled the issue, saying the forum and letter proved school leaders were taking the issue seriously. Faced with similar issues, he says other universities have performed far worse.
“There was no need for me to get involved because it was self-contained,” Gunn said. “I’m always an advocate for people working on it in their own circles. We don’t have to create fire when there isn’t any.”
Source: USA Today | Matthew Albright, The News Journal