Continued discussion of Tuesday’s editorial cartoon

Editor’s note: An editorial cartoon on the Trayvon Martin case that ran Tuesday has continued to generate many responses, several of which appear below. For an apology from The Daily Texan Editorial Board, please see the front page of today’s Texan.

I realize that the views of the cartoon do not reflect that of The Daily Texan, nor am I saying what view the artist is trying to convey, but to let something this blatantly either racist or ignorant into a school newspaper is absolutely abhorrent. It either reflects laziness of the staff for not thinking enough about the content it is publishing, or it reflects purpose for stirring up controversy. Either of those options make me very disappointed and upset, not only because I disagree with how ignorant it seems but because it reflects poorly on anyone who ever attended or was associated with UT.

The Daily Texan is beginning to build up a reputation of poor judgment, and it honestly doesn’t do anyone who graduated from UT, or anyone attending the University, any favors. Not to mention how it makes the 4 percent of undergraduates who are African-Americans feel. Having to see that in their school newspapers is a terrible shame, and it only furthers their feelings of oppression in an already racist culture.

Ryan Cunningham, UT alumnus

The political cartoon by Stephanie Eisner is more than offensive. It is blatant racism. I am a 2011 graduate of UT with a dual major in English and rhetoric and writing. I sat in several classes dedicated to the study of African-American literature and writing, and I am gasping for air as I examine this cartoon. It is simply unforgivable.

To be clear, I am not a 20-something student. I am a 55-year-old woman who never gave up on a dream to graduate from UT. I slogged my way through my courses to gain enlightenment and to review my personal history in a new light. I grew up during the Civil Rights era and watched the events unfold firsthand. Today, I saw all of it crumble under the weight of racism on campus.

Shame on all of you.

Cindy Hough, UT alumna

I served as a political cartoonist for The Daily Texan from 2010-11. Editorial cartoonists contribute a very unique and challenging form of commentary to the newspaper. Unlike columnists, cartoonists are usually thrown a square with just enough room to sketch a few little donkeys braying out a speech bubble. Conveying issues through this medium is, by nature, more immediately powerful and dangerous than writing.

The year in which I worked for the Texan witnessed dangerous congressional brinkmanship, the additions to WikiLeaks and the killing of Osama Bin Laden and countless other events that invited strong emotional reactions from all who paid the slightest attention to the world around them. The media has never portrayed these issues to my satisfaction. My boiling anger could easily have provided all the material I needed to create powerful, controversial cartoons.

But I made a conscious decision to sacrifice the attention controversy would have provided in favor of a commitment to the following consideration, which I view as infinitely more worthwhile: Does my expression unify others by provoking thought or further entrench them by provoking anger?

I was not and still am not perfect at answering this question. Nor am I advising that we shy away from expressing our opinions, even our most controversial ones. Igniting indignation in readers sometimes is necessary to motivate them to action.

But the creation of a cartoon is only half of the process to consider. The decision to incite anger to motivate or inform others can prove acceptable if — and only if — you take hold of an extra degree of responsibility to construct your work in a way that ensures the reaction will prove inherently constructive.

Instead of labeling each other as racists and letting this event divide us, I encourage members of the UT community to take this event as an opportunity to ask themselves the above question and reflect on how we can all express our opinions in a more constructive, unifying fashion.

Lauren Thomas, International relations and global studies senior

I wonder why you would choose to allow this piece to run in your paper, in light of the fact that so many people are suffering right now after Trayvon Martin’s death. For the moment, put aside what poor editorial judgment you and your staff exercised in running the cartoon.

Journalists, you will learn, have a responsibility that includes humanity, as well as conveying information. If any of you plan to pursue your journalistic interests professionally, you will find that one of the most important issues to deal with in your work is cultural sensitivity. I’ve been a working journalist for all of my adult life, a professor of journalism for the past decade and a “news junkie.” What I have learned is that publications that run things like photos of Whitney Houston in her casket or images of murdered Afghan civilians or cartoons like the one you ran, generally lose whatever respect they may have had among their readers. With that loss of respect comes compromised credibility, and once your publication is no longer considered a credible source of information, there is no reason to continue publishing.

How disappointing that not one person in a decision-making position at your newspaper had the foresight to understand how demeaning this cartoon is to Trayvon Martin’s memory.

How stunning it is to me that no one thought about how the cartoon might affect Trayvon’s grieving family.

With freedom of speech comes a huge responsibility, particularly for people in positions like yours with the student newspaper. Think about that next time you are faced with a decision about running something in your paper that will hurt so many people.

Finally, we Americans are trying very hard to evolve certain words out of the language, and we really thought we had done away with the term “colored.” Shame on you. Shame for allowing this term to be brought back into the public consciousness. I am outraged at this.

Paul A. Greenberg, Director, Media Arts and Journalism, Tulane University School of Continuing Studies