Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Insensitivity Makes April Fools’ Issue a Bad Joke

We are proud members of the black community at Georgetown. In the past, we appreciated The Hoya’s coverage of important issues ranging from campus security to the endowment. Even coverage of diversity-related issues has improved slowly since we matriculated. However, the March 31 joke issue of The Hoya was tasteless, disturbing and, above all, not funny.

It appears that The Hoya finds it much easier to target marginalized and minority groups as the butts of incredibly negative jokes, but has difficulty going as hard on itself and majority groups. There is no excuse for the stereotypes, discrimination and mockery that the distasteful humor was based on. This issue was an insult to any sane person’s sensibilities, but was particularly offensive to black, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish and LGBTQ students.

By all means, we appreciated the sarcastic elements of The Hoya that were used to point out the lack of diversity at Georgetown. But other parts of the issue were disturbing – they were not funny and moderately imbecilic. The article that is igniting the most outrage within the community is “We Need More Interracial Loving at Georgetown” (The Hoya, March 31, 2009, A3). At no point is it ever appropriate to refer to black people as “Cocoa Puffs.” Worse, the article made it seem like the only advantage a black mother could ever give her child would be to make that child an ideal affirmative action candidate.

We understand that Tuesday’s issue was an April Fools’ issue, but this article reads like a minstrel show. The piece, credited to a “Ryan Westen,” was an affront to problems that have yet to be taken seriously on this campus and the people that work to affect positive change at Georgetown. The article is indicative of the attitude that some Georgetown students have toward diversity: one of apathy and, more disturbingly, of mockery and futility. The obvious mockery of Brian Kesten (COL ’10) and the many students who make up the Student Commission for Unity shows a disregard for diversity initiatives. What one thinks of SCU or Brian Kesten is irrelevant. Some respect should be shown to someone who is working tirelessly for diversity.

Even more offensive is the joking attitude to race taken in this piece, particularly with regards to affirmative action, the Jena Six and standards of beauty that code black people as not as attractive as mixed-race and white people. Assumptions already abound that black students are only at Georgetown and similarly prestigious schools only to fill a quota – why add to this nonsensical perception?

The issue’s mockery of Georgetown’s own Jena Six controversy in 2007 shows that The Hoya has not learned from the qualms raised by the Georgetown NAACP and the black community at that time. Normative standards of beauty negatively affect the perception and self-esteem of black people. People who have two black parents are often socialized to think that their mixed peers are more attractive than them because of their lighter skin. This article insinuated and perpetuated this racist and archaic sentiment.

The issue may have been somewhat humorous if The Hoya had actually acknowledged and given due coverage to minority issues on campus and beyond – but it doesn’t. So the humor doesn’t work, in this instance.

The mocking attitude toward diversity is also reflected in the mock editorial “Is `Georgetown’ A Synonym for `Diversity?’ Hell Yeah!” (The Hoya, March 31, 2009, A2). Many black students at this school feel uncomfortable and unwelcome at Georgetown not only because it is a predominantly white institution, but also because there is a tangible disregard of black students’ wants or needs, mostly reflected by our peers.

We appeal to all Georgetown students to take these sentiments at face value. From our experiences, we can say with complete confidence that the majority of black students at this university do not feel like they are part of the Georgetown community. It is manifested in academic life, social life and the under-representation of black students in “mainstream” organizations and extracurricular activities. The distasteful humor of The Hoya’s April Fools’ issue does nothing to reconcile these issues in the least. Now we know that instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, it will not only be acknowledged – but also made fun of.

Jheanelle Brown is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and media relations officer for the Georgetown chapter of the NAACP. Don Cartier is a senior in the College and a member of the African Society of Georgetown.

To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact opinionthehoya.com. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.

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