The student newspaper at the University of Alabama was forced to issue an apology for printing a deeply offensive, racist cartoon.
It was racist, some argued, because it made fun of President Obama. And making fun of Obama is racist.
But not only was the cartoon wholly inoffensive, it was actually poking light-hearted fun at the president’s opponents, rather than the president himself.
The Crimson White published the cartoon on Thursday. It depicted an Alabama football player knocked down on the field as an Auburn University player dashed past him, football in hand–a reference to Alabama’s shocking last-minute loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl last week. The caption on the cartoon: “This is what happens in Obama’s America.”
The cartoon was not intended as a slight against the president; rather, it satirizes the tendency of some people who oppose Obama to blame everything that goes wrong–even personal, trivial things–on his policies. A popular meme, “Thanks, Obama,” also uses this concept to create humor.
The editors of The Crimson White thought the joke — blaming Alabama’s loss on Obama — would be obvious and well-received. Instead, they were flooded with angry comments and letters from offended readers, outraged at the idea — wrong, in this case — that anyone, anywhere, would be allowed to criticize the president.
The newspaper’s editors issued a swift and total apology for running a cartoon that some people had inexplicably construed as racist.
“ The cartoon was meant as satire, but unfortunately it has been perceived by many readers as having racist intentions,” wrote Mazie Bryant, editor in chief of The Crimson White in an editorial. “We sincerely regret this, and apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
After clarifying that the cartoon’s mildly critical message was neither racist nor even directed at the president, Bryant promised stricter oversight to keep from inadvertently offending anyone in the future. From now on cartoons will have to survive the review of a sensitivity panel in order to be published.
“From this point on, we will be approving cartoons before they are published with a panel consisting of our editorial board,” she wrote. “We will judge cartoons based on their power and meaning and decipher which areas need to be revised and expanded upon.”
The cartoon’s artist issued his own apology on The Crimson White’s Facebook page.
These apologies did not go far enough for some.
“I am completely and utterly disgusted with The University of Alabama,” wrote the first commenter on the online version of Bryant’s editorial. “No matter where you stand with your beliefs and how much you disagree with his decisions, [Obama] has EARNED his position in office and deserves the respect that all of the past presidents received. Ask yourself, what does this say about The University of Alabama? I can tell you what my peers and fellow classmates think it is, racism.”
Reactions like that one may seem excessive, but sadly, they have become the norm on many American college campuses, according to Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
“The bar for what is offensive has been very low for decades now,” he told The Daily Caller. “Campus [political correctness] has helped create, what I call, the ‘will to be offended.’”
In his recent book, “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate,” Lukianoff argues that students are ill-served by the culture of the modern college campus, which stifles free-thinking in order to protect students from damaging each other’s feelings in even the most trivial ways.
“It’s not just that students are offended much too easily, it’s almost as if they want to be as a chance to grandstand or win an argument even if the justification for their offendedness makes absolutely no sense,” he wrote.
As far as nonsensical offendedness goes, it would be hard to find a better example than The Crimson White’s cartoon.