University paper apologizes for cartoon uproar

A student newspaper apologized in print to its readers for an editorial cartoon with slavery imagery that sparked protests and a call from the university president for the staff to attend diversity training.

The Kentucky Kernel, the student paper of the University of Kentucky, printed the apology on Monday for running a cartoon depicting a bare-chested black student on an auction block with his left leg chained. Meanwhile, a white auctioneer in the cartoon calls the student a “young buck” and gets bids from three fictional fraternities: Aryan Omega, Kappa Kappa Kappa and Alpha Caucasian.

Keith Smiley, the editor of the paper, wrote “we should not have published the editorial cartoon.”

“Sometimes, it is necessary to be offensive or controversial to make a point. But in this case, we crossed the line, and any message in the cartoon was obscured by its offensiveness,” Smiley said.

University of Kentucky President Lee Todd Jr., issued a statement saying he hoped the controversy would lead to a productive discussion.

“As much as I regret the cartoon, and the pain it engendered, I am gratified by the heightened sensitivity that I think will result and the push for more inclusive dialogue about these and other important issues related to diversity,” Todd said.

Todd recommended that Smiley and the Kernel staff take part in diversity or cultural sensitivity training offered at UK, but Smiley said that has already been discussed.

The cartoon, drawn by student Brad Fletcher, appeared last week and sparked peaceful protests around campus. Fletcher also apologized in the paper.

“The images are harsh, dramatic and unnecessary. My use of multiple stereotypes in the cartoon was shortsighted, cheap and ignorant,” he said.

The Kernel’s opinion page editor, Chad Reese, also resigned. Reese quit on Sunday after Smiley declined to run a column defending the cartoon.

Reese, a 21-year-old philosophy junior, said he knew the cartoon was controversial and didn’t agree with it, but he doesn’t agree with every column or cartoon printed.

“Anytime you talk about a racial issue, with the history of Lexington and the University of Kentucky specifically, there’s a lot of deep-seated racism in our community,” he said. “It would be irresponsible not to look at that context whenever you deal with racism here.”

Smiley said he was glad Todd weighed in.

“We want to hear everyone’s voice,” he said. “(Todd) started off saying he was in strong disagreement, disappointed to see it, but I think he was looking ahead. I agree. We need to face the issues and not just ignore what’s happening, just try to move forward.”