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Friday, November 28, 2014

‘Lion King’ cartoon merits apology

Over the past two days, the Daily Lobo has received numerous complaints about a cartoon that ran in our Opinion section on Tuesday.

The political cartoon alluded to a memorable scene from the Disney movie, “The Lion King,” in which Rafiki announces Simba’s birth. Except in this case, President Barack Obama was cast as Rafiki, and in place of Simba was Osama bin Laden’s severed head.
Regrettably, this cartoon offended the African-American community — along with many others — who interpreted Obama’s representation as racist. For this oversight, I sincerely apologize.

To clear the record, I approved publication of the cartoon.

It was not published with the intent to perpetuate stereotypes, or infer African-American students are in any way inferior.

Someone in my position should be more culturally sensitive, and I and the staff plan to remedy the situation.

I already talked with African-American students and African American Students Services. Furthermore, the Daily Lobo is in talks concerning sensitivity training for the staff with African-American groups on campus.

In addition, we will continue to keep our doors, as well as the Opinion section, open for anyone who wishes to participate in the discourse.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t also take this chance to defend the paper for the less–than-glamorous attention we’ve received.

First, it should be noted that the Daily Lobo hires students from all walks of life. Anyone who walks through our door gets a chance to write.

It must be made clear that we are not barring African-Americans from joining our staff, but few have applied, save for one freelance reporter who writes regularly.

We want that to change, and so, again, we are asking that minority students consider writing for the Daily Lobo. You don’t have to be a journalism major, and you don’t need previous experience writing for a paper. If you want to write and are willing to work hard, come in and we will teach you.

Second, the Daily Lobo has, in the past, strived to work with African-American student organizations. Our previous editor, Pat Lohmann, worked with the organizations to educate our reporters about cultural sensitivity. He set a date with the group and mandated that every staffer attend.

Unfortunately, no one from African American Student Services showed up. We are actively trying to set another meeting, but I want to make it clear that the Daily Lobo has not ignored the organization.

In fact, we pioneered a column unique to New Mexico, The Afro-American Experience, specifically to help illustrate the challenges and problems African-Americans encounter. No other paper in the state has ever done this, and we are not trying to pat ourselves on the back, but would like to remind people about the efforts we have taken to highlight difficulties unique to African-Americans in this state.

Third, we must make it clear that we did not run the cartoon with the intent to be racist. We saw the cartoon as an interpretation of Osama bin Laden’s death and the American celebration along with it. We saw the cartoon as a symbol of the twisted nature of American pride and thought it would provoke interesting, not racist, discussion. Since we can only speculate as to the intent of the cartoon, I contacted the artist, Hajo de Reijer.

“It wasn’t my intention to be racist. And it will never be,” he said. “U.S. President Barack Obama tweaked Donald Trump at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner over the fuss he made over his place of birth. Obama showed the opening scene from the movie ‘Lion King,’ showing baby Simba being born to his Lion King father.”

De Reijer said his cartoon was simply a reflection of a current event. In full disclosure, De Reijer is from the Netherlands and is not necessarily attuned to the racial undertones of such a depiction of Obama in America.

We bring this up not to justify the cartoon’s content, but to try to foster understanding of our editorial decision to run it.

In short, we would like to use this opportunity to again apologize to the African-American community, as well as anyone else offended by the cartoon. We will continue to strive to be culturally sensitive in the present and future, and we encourage all students on the campus to express their voice through our paper.

We understand the severity of the situation, and rather than brushing it aside, we would like to learn from it so this oversight won’t happen again.
Thank for your time and consideration, Daily Lobo readers, and good luck in finals.

Sincerely,

Christopher Quintana
Editor-in-Chief