Today, UT's student newspaper, The Daily Texan, ran this racist cartoon. The Huffington Post, Gawker, and other national outlets are covering the outrageous cartoon. The Daily Texan pulled it off their website this afternoon.
In the cartoon, a mother reads to her child from a storybook called “Treyvon Martin and the Case of Yellow Journalism.” She reads, “AND THEN…the BIG BAD WHITE man killed the HANDSOME, sweet, innocent COLORED BOY!!!” Instead of commenting on the brutal murder and the insane Florida law that allows Martin's killer to roam free, Eisner's cartoon is a cheeky commentary defending white people from the media's “yellow journalism.” How could The Daily Texan's editorial board, usually progressive and insightful, let this slime through?
The cartoonist is student Stephanie Eisner, a recipient of the prestigious Forty Acres Scholarship sponsored by the Texas Exes, the UT alumni organization. Such a recipient should uphold the ideals of intelligent discourse and civil engagement. Clearly, something went wrong in the scholarship's application process if a mind like Eisner's was granted funds.
This cartoon is naturally repulsive, but it's important to understand critically why it has that effect. The outrage of the Trayvon Martin case is that George Zimmerman is walking free after murdering an innocent 17-year-old high school student because of Florida's insanely broad self-defense law. Zimmerman called the police and told them about his suspicion of “a real suspicious guy” who was “just walking around looking about” in the rain. Zimmerman then chased this “real suspicious guy” and shot him in the back. Trayvon Martin was holding Skittles and an iced tea.
Because Zimmerman created a conflict by chasing Martin, he was able to claim self-defense and thus walks free today. This is an outrage of the highest order, and it could not be more clear that Zimmerman's characterization of Martin as “suspicious” was racial – in the same phone call, he says “[t]hese a**holes always get away” and may have called Trayvon a “coon.” Here's a full run-down of the murder.
Since the murder, Republicans have complained repeatedy about discussing the racial component of this murder. When President Obama said if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, Newt Gingrich called the comment “disgraceful.” Rick Santorum accused President Obama of “politicizing” the issue by bringing up race. Rush Limbaugh said that George Zimmerman “just got a little overzealous” and complained that “[y]ou need white-on-black here to gin this up.” The Orlando Sun-Sentinel ran an editorial slamming GOP candidates for their reprehensible handling of the murder. ThinkProgress has a complete chronicle of the smear campaign against Trayvon Martin.
Eisner's cartoon is repulsive because it plays right into these hateful right-wing attacks. The tragedy of this murder is the murder itself, and the racial component is undeniable. It must be discussed when talking about the motive for the case and the handling thereof. The cartoon, which misspells Trayvon's name, mockingly depicts this murder as a hateful man against an innocent child, but that is exactly what happened. Eisner's cartoon boils down the vicious murder of an American child to a media conspiracy to bash white people.
UT has been developing a poor reputation for racial discourse. In this academic year alone, two presidents of the College Republicans have shamed UT on the national stage – the first for saying it was “tempting” to murder President Obama, and the second for implying that because President Obama is black, he “smokes a lot of crack.”
This is a disgraceful reputation UT needs to move away from. The Daily Texan owes its readers an apology for running this racist cartoon and further damaging the university's national reputation.
Update 6:45pm: The Daily Texan Editorial Board has put out this statement: “The Daily Texan Editorial Board recognizes the sensitive nature of the cartoon's subject matter. The views expressed in the cartoon are not those of the editorial board. They are those of the artist. It is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them.”
This is weak sauce. Clearly, The Daily Texan recognizes that the cartoon is hateful, racist discharge; otherwise, they would not have scrubbed it from their website. Why are they defending such submental content as a “view” to be protected? Eisner's cartoon is a baseless attack, not an invitation to discourse. The Daily Texan should apologize for their indiscretion immediately and vow to preserve civil dialogue within their pages in the future.