I was heart-broken when I found out Monday’s editorial cartoon was offensive and inherently racist. As someone who considers himself an advocate for diversity both on campus and in our newsroom, it was terrifying to know the Collegian had published something many viewed as racist and hateful.
The cartoon I’m referring featured CSU running back Gartrell Johnson wearing his uniform and asking football coach Sonny Lubick to create a new fourth quarter strategy. Johnson, who happens to be dark black man, was portrayed in a way similar to the old slap-stick “black face” cartoons of decades past, with only his eyes glowing under his helmet.
These types of cartoons are only used in hate speech nowadays, a fact with which I wasn’t familiar and a connection my staff had not made when approving the cartoon.
While it was never the intention of the cartoonist or the paper to portray Johnson in such a way, the fact remains that it has striking similarities, and for that we are all painfully sorry.
Historically, when any media cross the race line, an apology given about the issue is swept under the rug. For many editors, it’s about damage control, which we know a little about.
I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of issuing an apology and moving on, I’d like to talk about why these things happen and how it can be addressed.
In a conversation last night with Isiah Kelley, the slam-poet who brought the issue to our attention, we both agreed it’s time the Collegian and the advocacy offices on campus be proactive in increasing the diversity of your student newspaper.
He came in with a list of students affiliated with several advocacy offices on campus and who had an interest in writing. He left with a stack of Collegian applications.
To be honest, as a white male, I’m not always given the benefit of the doubt when talking about issues of diversity. And I talk about it often. In my conversations with Kelley, though, I found we share a similar vision but from opposing perspectives.
I don’t directly feel the burn from an often intolerant community, I didn’t see the hidden message in the cartoon the first time and I will never truly understand the emotions associated with such hatred. I do, however, understand the importance of what I can do as a leader on campus and a member of the out group.
Before I became editor, I approached a few departments on campus to start the first-ever service-learning “pipeline” to address diversity in the media. We later coined it, cleverly, “Diversity in the Media.”
As a creator of the initiative, the class and as mentor of the group of freshmen students devoted to the issue, I was humbled to see that I am learning just as much as they are. In class- also called “Diversity in the Media”- we’ve begun to call the Collegian a “living lab.”
And it is. We’re learning like crazy down here. Now, it’s up to us to apply that lesson in a constructive way.
We need minority voices in our paper. I want them, our editorial board wants them and CSU students need it more than ever.
Again, please accept my sincerest apology for the offensive cartoon. I’m truly sorry, but I’m more sorry to know I wouldn’t have ever known if we didn’t send a reporter to the talent show on a whim. It just goes to show how our largely homogeneous campus disillusions some to students to the point of thinking something as simple as a letter to the editor or a phone call will go unheard.
At the Collegian, while I’m hear, your voices will be heard. And please, if you want to write for us, pick up an application in the basement of the Lory Student Center.