Remember the controversy over this year’s April Fools’ “humor” issue of the Hoya, Georgetown University’s student newspaper? The one that prompted protests by students who deemed some of its content (Headline: “We Need More Interracial Loving at Georgetown”; Excerpt: “We don’t have enough good old vanilla-chocolate interracial fucking”) racially insensitive?
Well, those charges are being leveled again, this time against the Georgetown Heckler, a satirical magazine run by Georgetown students, which on Saturday published an article called “The Hoya Holds Annual Holiday Cross-Lighting Ceremony in Dahlgren Quad.” In it, the cross lighting was a KKK-style cross burning, the participants donned white hoods, and lynched bodies, in the form of pinatas, hung from trees (in the piece, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia allows his son to take a whack).
The accompanying photograph of a KKK cross burning (below) had a caption that read: “Jubilant Hoya staffers taking part in the annual tradition.”
The Heckler story begins:
DAHLGREN QUAD—After a challenging year during which Georgetown’s main newspaper saw a last-minute revocation of its independence from the University and extended fallout over its annual April Fool’s issue, The Hoya came together this Friday for its annual cross lighting.
Since the 1930s, the Christmas cross has stood next to Georgetown’s official Christmas tree and is meant to be a reminder of the religious importance of the holiday that the newspaper felt was already slipping from the cultural consciousness during the Roosevelt administration. The Hoya still uses the original green and red light-bulb-studded metal frame of the cross from the first cross lighting, but its wood body has had to be replaced every year since 1941 because faulty electrical wiring causes the wood to catch fire.
And later goes on:
The event began Friday with the staff’s traditional procession under the dark of night from the Leavey Center, with everyone wearing the traditional costume of a flowing white robe, white hood, and white mask, portraying the “ghosts of Christmas past.”
“It’s a time to remember our great tradition, but it’s also a time to remember some of the darkness that hangs over our past,” Hoya Features Editor Emma Richards (COL ’12) said. “It feels cathartic to put on this white hood. It’s about us coming together as one and exterminating these dark figures of the past that seem to loom over us.”
“I was just appalled,” said John Lewis, a junior studying government and English, who is African-American. Invoking cross burnings, the KKK, and lynchings, he said, is “by no means appropriate for any type of satirical work—especially at a university like Georgetown where a lot of racial issues have been swept under the rug.”
Lewis and Elizabeth Gunderson, a senior who is white and has served as president of the university’s chapter of the NAACP, sent out a news release that quoted other outraged students and faculty.
Sociology professor Joseph Palacios: “Putting a burning KKK cross as a Christmas symbol is not only racist but an insult to Christians and the values of Georgetown. If this is supposed to be a humorous reaction to political correctness then one has to wonder how low one needs to go to create political humor. The editors and the writers need to do a self-examination of their deeply rooted racism, anger, and anti-Christian attitudes.”
Student and NAACP chapter president Jheanelle Brown: “At the end of the day, The Heckler’s article made me sick to my stomach. I…felt that my Black body became a site for White (and non-Black) students to negotiate their twisted notions under the guise of satire. The nonsense has got to stop.”
History department chair Aviel Roshwald: “I am convinced that The Heckler has in fact flagrantly crossed beyond all limits of tolerance by publishing a piece that can readily be understood to glorify violence against minorities, and thereby encourage it. The First Amendment protects The Heckler‘s [right] to publish brainless filth. The First Amendment also protects Georgetown University’s right to dissociate itself from a mouthpiece for hate-mongering.”
“Student activists are demanding a proper retraction and apology from The Heckler, as well as removal of the Georgetown name and insignia from the publication and its website,” the release says. “In addition, concerned students are demanding a revision of the Media Board’s procedures and guidelines concerning student publications, in order to ensure that publications are checked thoroughly to avoid unabashed bigotry. Students, unwilling to allow this issue to get swept under the rug, are raising awareness and standing up for a campus environment that celebrates diversity and welcomes all people.
In response to the Heckler article, Brian Kesten, a senior theoloy major who is white and serves as head of Georgetown’s Student Commission for Unity, has organized an on-campus event tonight on “Racism and Satire.”
“Why is the only context for discussing race found in humor or satire at Georgetown?” its Facebook page asks. “Why does so much satire at Georgetown target victims of hate crimes, discrimination, sexual assault or injustice?”
In response to an email request for comment, the Heckler editor, Jack Stuef, asked if he could call City Desk tonight (he’s cramming for a final).