Who’s asleep at the wheel at The Daily Texan?
Update: For some reason, the link to Doug Warren’s scolding of people who protested this cartoon doesn’t work. I don’t know why that is, but I promise that it was up until just a few minutes ago. Luckily, someone on Twitter gave me this link, so you can see it with your own eyeballs.
UT Austin’s student newspaper is usually pretty progressive, but because there are a bunch of wingnuts lurking around on campus, occasional jaw-dropping lunacy gets into the pages of The Daily Texan on occasion. But even within that context, this was a surprisingly vicious cartoon that was recently published:
Needless to say, this is intensely racist, and not, as the butthurt are trying to pretend, simply because of the word “colored”. People love to focus on individual syllables, wishing feverently to reduce racism to certain sounds said in a row, and ignoring more important issues such as content and action. No, this cartoon is racist because implicit in its argument is the idea that it’s illegitimate for the media to treat what appears to be the cold-blooded murder of an unarmed teenager as tragic if the victim is black. Also embedded in this cartoon is the notion that it’s preposterous for anyone to look at a 17-year-old black teenage boy and see someone who is “handsome”, “sweet”, or “innocent”. The cartoon only works in the context Jesse outlines below, one where the reader believes black young men are criminally dangerous by definition and that anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly trying to sell you something. Without that racist assumption, this cartoon doesn’t make any fucking sense. If you believe high school kids, even black ones, should be able to buy Skittles and return home unmolested, much less unmurdered, then a national outcry because that right is taken away makes perfect sense.
Which is why the responses of the cartoonist and a staff advisor at The Daily Texan are unacceptable.
First, the cartoonist, who “apologized” by dodging the issue:
I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting. I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused.
First the “I apologise for any hurt” thing, instead of the straightforward “I fucked up, and am sorry” thing. But she doesn’t really apologize even then. She says the cartoon was intended to be a commentary on the media, but as I note above, unless you’re racist, the media’s concern about this thoughtless bloodshed is appropriate. If a white teenager was being gunned down randomly in the street and the police refused to arrest the murderer and the murderer offered a highly suspect story contradicted by his own 911 call, I highly doubt Eisner would condescendingly accuse the media of being upset over nothing. The only reason to think that it’s a waste of time to run stories about the continued problem of racism in our country is if you don’t have a problem with racism, full stop. Denying that you’re a racist is just a tailsman in this case. It’s really a pointless exercise that makes this all about how bad it is to suggest anyone is a racist, and to distract from the real problem here, which is that a young man lost his life for no other apparent reason than the color of his skin.
Then there’s this offensive horseshit from Doug Warren, a staff advisor for the Texan:
Take a deep breath
Already with the headline, we’re on typical ground here: Arguing that the offensive action the racist swipe at a murder victim and those who sympathize with his family’s plight, but that the real crime is being upset about this horrible murder and the vicious responses that are emerging. Don’t get all hysterical because a guy who shot an innocent kid for no real reason will walk free because he pulled the “black men are scary” card! Gosh, you’d think that cold-blooded murder was a serious problem or something.
The cartoon is admittedly flawed because it spelled Martin’s first name incorrectly and it used a phrase (“colored boy”) that is offensive and could have been avoided (“black teenager.”)
I really, really hate the “racism is just a matter of using improper terms” argument. No, it’s not. Even if the phrases had been swapped, the cartoon—as noted above—makes no sense without the racist assumption that the safety and well-being of black citizens doesn’t matter.
I understand the outrage sparked by the Martin incident, but I trust I won’t risk the anger of the mob when I point out that no one has been charged or convicted in the case thus far.
Which is the point. The country is beginning to realize that, in the state of Florida, you can just randomly execute young black men and get away with it as long as you claim you were scared. You don’t even have to cool your jets in jail for a few hours while they rubber stamp your release.
The alleged shooter, George Zimmerman is claiming self-defense under a “stand your ground” law that is on the books in Florida and various other states, including Texas.
Well, gosh, if it’s the law, that puts it above criticism, doesn’t it? This guy is supposed to be a journalist, y’all. I wasn’t aware that “uncritical stance towards law and policy as enacted” was part of our job description.
Where is the outrage over such an absurd law, which has been promoted across the country by the National Rifle Association? Who is angered by gun laws that allow “neighborhood watch” cop-wannabes like Zimmerman to walk around armed?
The people that Eisner and you are accusing of hysteria. By the way, I’m a little unclear on how we can both be in the wrong for being critical and not-critical of this law.
The newly minted civil rights activists and self-appointed media pundits
Oh wow, I love his unevidenced assumption that the people who are taking up this cause were utterly indifferent to racism before. Really? Because a lot of the heavy coverage of this that pumped it into the national media came from places like Colorlines, whose staff would, I’m sure, be surprised to find out they only just started to care about racism.
might want to ask themselves what is more inherently racist — a poorly executed student cartoon or the fact that the African-American student population at the University of Texas at Austin (6 percent) is only half the percentage of the overall population of African-Americans in the state of Texas (11.8 percent.)
This is a classic derailing tactic. Feminists know it really well—how can you care about abortion rights when women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive?!—and the intent is never to actually address concerns about racism and sexism. The same forces that allowed Zimmerman to make up some bullshit to the cops and walk scot-free after shooting someone he was told not to chase are the same forces that result in these numbers. I’m intensely skeptical that letting vicious racism run in the pages of The Daily Texan unchallenged is going to have a positive or even neutral effect on the student body’s racial diversity. On the contrary, it suggests to would-be black students that UT Austin is an unwelcome campus, and could actively work against the goal of greater diversity. More importantly, the underlying prejudice that assumes young black men are inherently criminal is probably the number one reason that black enrollment at UT is so low. These racist fears of black people work to segregate black students into underfunded schools. These fears are part of the reason that black students are more likely to face serious discipline in school. At every point in the public education system, black students face prejudices that make it that much harder for them to put together that college application and get into schools like UT Austin. Look at how conservatives are salivating over the possibility that Trayvon Martin might have smoked pot. A white kid in a suburban high school who smokes pot is Harvard material in the U.S., but a black kid who does the same can be expected to have people write off his death if he’s shot in cold blood for no reason. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t have an effect on college enrollment numbers is an idiot.