Guest Column: Pipeline cartoon remains offensive

Letter to the Editor

Editors Note: We ran a political cartoon Friday, Jan. 20 in the opinion section that offended and angered some readers. In their complaints, they implied racism with linkage to lynching. We wrote an Our View the following Monday explaining our reasoning for running the cartoon, but we also suggested they write a letter to the editor. This is their response.

To the editors of the Stater:

Your decision to reprint Nate Beeler’s view of President Obama’s position on the XL Pipeline was extremely hurtful to many of your readers. While it was well within your first amendment rights, and with your recent clarification on Kent Wired taken into consideration, it remains highly offensive on several levels. Here are just a couple.

First, the imagery of the noose to many Americans, and others who understand the history of Lynch-Law, represents a long, painful and extremely violent portion of America’s legacy that still bears scars that have not fully healed. It was a tool of torture, racist terror and murder, which was used to end the lives of individuals as well as the hopes and dreams of entire communities. In effect, it continues to threaten the development of American society as is evident in the story of the Jena Six in Louisiana. While the noose taken in context may be seen as innocuous, in this particular context, the imagery carries a specific and vile undertone that may well have been overlooked by the Stater staff and perhaps even the cartoonist himself. Were it any other tool of racist terror, be it a swastika, the confederate flag or any of the many other recognizable symbols employed here, one would hope that the outrage at this cartoon would be immediate and on a national scale.

The office of the President of the United States, while not above reproach, represents a specific standard to be afforded a certain margin of respect. The idea of juxtaposing the current standing president, who just happens to be African American, with the image of a noose and an average white man stating: “is that supposed to be for me or for you,” may not seem like much to those who are not aware of the depth of the wounds of this very recent history (1880s to the 1940s) as it pertains to lynching’s in America. These atrocities, which occurred on a near daily basis for generations, continue to occur today, as we see shockingly high numbers of lynching of blacks, gays and lesbians, Jews, and Muslims in the new millennium. This attack on the president smacks of historical assaults on the “uppity Negro” and regardless of the intent of the editorial staff, in the current social and political climate, this particular message is clear. The history of institutional racism, segregation and the Jim Crow Era, still bleeds through today and is evident in some of the recent rhetoric from within the Tea Party, as we have seen the President hanged in effigy at Tea Party rallies while racial slurs were hurled, and even in some of the discourse from prospective Republican presidential candidates like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

In short, the mere imagery of the noose, and an African American president should have set off alarm bells for any conscientious editor. While your recent clarification seeks to represent your position on the issue, it misses the point of why a whole race of people and their allies might be offended. It most definitely was not against the law, but it wasn’t merely in bad taste either. The Stater should represent its diverse, thoughtful, informed community. And we do not want that imagery to represent us. Do you have the right as journalists? Thankfully­—yes. Do you have the responsibility as members of this community? Absolutely!

Very Respectfully:

Greg Griffith

Senior, Political Science

Jamila Okantah

Sophomore, Pan-African Studies

Jason Pratt

Freshman, Early Admission

Dr. Nicole Rousseau

Assistant Professor

Kent State University

Department of Sociology

Jonathan Jones

Senior, Pan-African Studies

Idris K. Syed


Kent State University

Department of Pan-African Studies

Paisley Rae Stovall

Senior, Pan-African Studies

David A Siedlarczyk

Senior, Fashion Design

Emily Mae Ansley

Sophomore, Pre-Journalism Mass Communication

Prentice J. Howard

Senior, Art Education

Schae Devin Rhyan Coakley

Freshman, Fashion Merchandising