The Cavalier Daily, an independent newspaper on the University of Virginia’s campus, has left many students of color in uproar. The newspaper’s resident cartoonist, Grant Woolard, has made a number of offensive cartoons around both race and religion during his tenure. However, it was his most recent cartoon “Ethiopian Food Fight” that has left the students and greater community asking the same question…is this humor? Many students say no.
A colleague at UVA wrote the following to a local Charlottesville newpaper:
The comic depicted individuals of African decent (specifically Ethiopians) hitting each other with chairs and boots, dressed in loin cloths, and throwing everything you could imagine (but absolutely no food). The comic seemed to poke fun at the food shortages in Ethiopia, which is not at all a funny topic. Grant Woolard, the artist of the comic, has angered the University of Virginia community before with his previous cartoons. The Cavalier Daily has also chosen to include many comic strips that poke fun at religion and slavery.
Going further, writing:
This issue is not solely about comics or slavery, but about the marginalization of minorities at the University of Virginia, in the Charlottesville community, and all around the world. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech, but I do not believe in tolerating ignorance, insensitivity, and blatant racism.
The following is a portion of a community supported letter that was sent to the administration of UVA:
The University of Virginia prides itself on student initiative, self-governance, and most of all the right to freedom of speech readily exercised through various media on grounds. Unfortunately, the difference between uninhibited expression, a right we as citizens all own and offensive literature has once again been conflate during a publication in today’s Cavalier Daily edition.
The comics section of the Cavalier Daily, featured a strip addressing the sensitive nature of famine that once occurred in Ethiopia’s northern region. Entitled “Ethiopian Food Fight,” this image portrayed what presumably appears to be Ethiopians dressed in loin cloths fighting one another in hopes of securing food. Not only does it denigrate the Ethiopian people to have their unfortunate past be the subject of a comic’s ridicule, but famine in general is a social misfortunes that occurs globally ans should not be addressed so carelessly. To believe that such ignorant and inconsiderate behavior is acceptable in a collegiate, respectable community such as ours at the University reveals the level of ignorance and racism still prevalent today.
Despite an active effort by the student community of color through sit-ins and community supported letters to the administration and greater Charlottesville community to make something happen, the Cav Daily is an independant newspaper and therefore is not funded nor controlled by the administration. Even though the university is not involved with the Cav Daily doesn’t the newspaper represent the entire UVA student community, or does it?
It was also disheartening to hear in conversation with numerous UVA students that they would not be shocked if similar activites were to happen on their campus again before the beginning of 2008.
How can institutions that support advanced thought simultaneously foster such hate?
I encourage all to think deeply on this topic and any individuals from the UVA community that see this blog to please chime in with your first hand interpretation of the situation.