New Furor Over Race and Cartoons

Kentucky student journalists apologize for slave auction imagery that was designed to comment on efforts to end segregation of Greek system.
October 8, 2007

The University of Kentucky has this fall been considering the segregation of its Greek system (a common situation at colleges with large fraternity and sorority traditions) and what to do about it. While no solution has been found, black students and white Greeks were suddenly united Friday to condemn the student newspaper for a cartoon that tried to explore the issue.

The cartoon in The Kentucky Kernel featured a black man in chains on an auction block. Three fraternities, "Aryan Omega," "Alpha Caucasian" and "Kappa Kappa Kappa," are seen bidding on the man. The caption: "UK Greeks lead the way on integration with this year's new bids."

Within hours of the newspaper's distribution, students were protesting outside the journalism building, calling the cartoon insensitive, regardless of the apparent attempt to draw attention to segregation. One student was quoted in the paper as saying: "I don't care about the purpose. I cared about this man in chains.... I felt disrespected as a black woman."

And a few hours after that, both the cartoonist and the newspaper's editor were apologizing. Bradley Fletcher, the cartoonist, wrote that he viewed the cartoon when he drew it as "progressive and encouraging of social change," but he added "I was wrong," and apologized to both black and Greek students.

"I feel only apologetic and upset with myself for being so hasty in drawing the cartoon without thinking about how it could be read from perspectives besides my own. The fact that I drew the cartoon with the images I chose and did not realize how offensive they are shows quite clearly the racial divide in our society which I was attempting to attack," he wrote.

The editor, Keith Smiley, also apologized. "Sometimes, it is necessary to be offensive or controversial to make a point. In this case, we crossed the line, and any message in the cartoon was obscured by its offensiveness," he wrote.


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