When a black and white issue isn’t easy

Natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita seem destined to bring out the best and worst in people. Sure, many Americans have sacrificed their time and resources to the relief efforts and continue to do so.

Unfortunately, some ignorant statements have also been made during this time. One of the more notable was former first lady Barbara Bush indicating that the evacuees in the Astrodome were “underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.” Then we heard Louis Farrakhan putting forth his conspiracy theory that the levees were breached intentionally so as to flood the black areas of town. But that is not all. We also had rapper Kanye West proclaiming (during the NBC benefit telethon) that “(President) George (W.) Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

West must have known that such comments would not go unnoticed or ignored. In fact, an editorial cartoon appearing in the student-run University of Florida newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, took the comments head-on. Cartoonist Andy Marlette portrayed Kanye West handing “The Race Card” to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her exclaiming, “N**ga Please!”

Do you think there was a little reaction on the UF campus? You bet there was. Students marched on the offices of the newspaper, administrators called for an apology, students groups threatened to pull advertising and still the newspaper’s staff refuses to apologize. The question is, should they?

I don’t expect readers to take my opinions as gospel and I would hope my columns, at most, simply stir debate. You don’t have to agree with me, but it’s important to have some sort of stand on the issues of our time. This is what I believe that Andy Marlette was trying to achieve.

The theme of the editorial cartoon is that West’s comments are absurd. I am, admittedly, not a fan of President Bush and I do not align myself with his agenda. But I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of him “not caring about black people.”

In fact, as Marlette explained about his editorial cartoon, “If anything, it’s celebrating a black person who has really done something great and represents the best of black culture.”

Following Rice’s ascent from provost of Stanford to the inner circle of the Bush administration, with skills as a concert pianist and figure skater, she strikes me as the black renaissance woman of the 21st century.

Now, do I realize that using the n-word will enrage some? There is no doubt it will. I would not personally use it myself but I support what Marlette was trying to achieve — a debate about whether black entertainers are doing much to bridge the racial divide. Personally, I don’t think West’s comments achieve that purpose.

Adding fuel to the fire on the UF campus is the hypocrisy within the administration and the Black Student Union. UF president Bernie Machen has spoken out against the editorial cartoon but yet, ironically, West himself will perform on campus at the O’Connell Center. In addition, as mentioned in an editorial in The Independent Florida Alligator, the BSU treasurer (an outspoken critic of the editorial cartoon) is a member of the Facebook group called “N**gas that Pledge.”

I guess if the UF administration were serious about bridging the racial divide they wouldn’t promote the use of West’s n-word-laden lyrics, and the BSU wouldn’t engage in the same language they see as so offensive.

I know you are probably thinking, as does opinion columnist Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times, that “like it or not, there is a double standard when it comes to black folks using the n-word versus white people.” The problem with such thinking is that it ignores the fact that the editorial cartoon was just that – a comment from an African-American leader to an ill-informed hip-hop artist.

Now let’s get to the issues that can really bridge the racial divide in America and leave Andy Marlette’s editorial cartoon alone.

Aaron Hill is a seniormajoring in economics.