Mar 10, 2012 12:14 AM by Maddie Garrett

Offensive or Just a Joke? Students Speak Out on Comic in UL Paper

Some University of Louisiana Lafayette students are upset over a comic strip that ran in this week's edition of the campus newspaper, The Vermilion. Those students say the cartoon is racially charged and shouldn't have run in the student-run paper. The Vermilion's editor in chief explains why they printed the cartoon and students from both sides of the issue voice their opinions.

"My first reaction, I couldn't believe that UL's public newspaper would actually put something out like that for everyone else to see to represent the school as a whole," said Theron Cunningham, Vice President of the Black Male Leadership Association.

The comic strip shows a black man going to a store to buy a new TV. The salesman offers him two options, saying the more expensive TV "comes bundled with grape soda and a bucket of fried chicken." In the last frame of the comic, the man says "i'll take it!" and the salesman is shown holding the money in his hand. It's the reference to grape soda and fried chicken that most students said offended them.

"I feel it was more so offensive and stereotypical, and we fight those stereotypes everyday," said UL student Demarcus Runnels.

But not everyone saw it as offensive. Sydnei Prosper is a student at UL, in full disclosure she is also engaged to the artist, she said it was only meant as a harmless joke.

"To use an outdated stereotype such as fried chicken or grape soda is clearly satirical, it's clearly not intended to be racist in any way," said Prosper.

The Vermilion's Editor in Chief, Nick Fontenot, explained the paper's decision to run the comic. He said it was never meant to be racist or harmful.

"I didn't want to get into something where I start censoring the staffers, start censoring people that are writing articles, censoring people that are drawing cartoons, I want to give them the freedom to do what they want. And being that he was black I thought hey, he's not going to do something that's offensive to his own race, this is going to be ok," said Fontenot.

But these upset students said the fact that the artist is black doesn't make the comic strip OK.

"There is racism within your own race and we need to acknowledge that," said Allegra Lumpkin.

"I know some people think we are making a big deal about this or we're taking it too far, but if you don't stand for something then you'll fall for anything and as a race and as a people we should stand up and fight for what we believe in because this is not right and we will not stand for this," added Jordan Johnson.

The students said they have already met with the paper's staff to voice their concerns. Fontenot said the next issue, which comes out on Wednesday, will include an editorial from the artist on why he drew the cartoon and why doesn't think it was offensive, and another staff member will write an editorial on why he thinks the comic was offensive. Fontenot said additional editorials submitted on the issue will be published as well.



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