Georgetown University makes (repeated) attempts at racial satire, fails

Have a seat, Georgetown University. This is an intervention.

I know y’all think you’re funny. I know you take pride in your humor magazines, your April Fool’s Day issues and your inner campus newspaper rivalries. I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish – but The Onion is the greatest satirical publication of all time. Of all time!

You’ve been plagued with controversy this year, Georgetown student media. First, there was the latest installment in the ongoing war between the competing student newspapers The Hoya and The Voice, which resulted in every available surface of The Hoya offices being covered in spare issues of The Voice, and a corresponding internet flame war. If this piece was set for publication in said Hoya, here might be a good spot to insert a tasteless joke comparing fighting on the internet to the Special Olympics, but I’m just not going to go there – I’m sure 4Chan or somewhere equally trashy (Perez?) could take care of that.

Then there was The Hoya’s failed attempt at racial satire in their annual April Fool’s Day issue. The article, entitled “We Need More Interracial Loving at Georgetown,” was wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start. Was it the request for more “good old vanilla-chocolate swirl interracial f*****g?” The degradation of female stars such as Halle Berry and Alicia Keys to nothing more than “the results of good old fashioned biracial f*****g” (loving the creativity here, btw) and “sexy pieces of ass?” Might it have been the disgusting mental image of “adding a few drops of Georgetown’s milk into some Cocoa Puffs?” I don’t even want to touch that statement. Or was it the author’s pseudonym – the piece is credited to a “Ryan Westen,” a thinly veiled attack on real student Brian Kesten, who serves as Chairman and Founder of the Student Commission for Unity, which works to promote advocacy and diversity on the Georgetown campus. April Fool’s Day issues are notorious for being pretty bad, but Jesus Christ. Is this an award winning student newspaper, or Comedy Central at 3 am? I’ll be the first to admit – I’ve got a pretty foul mouth and raunchy sense of humor myself, but nothing about this was funny.

The Georgetown student community seemed to agree, based on the protest housed at The Hoya office shortly after the issue went to print, the requisite angry Facebook group (“The Hoya: Discrimination is not a laughing matter” which currently has over 400 members) and the call for editor Andrew Dwulet to resign, all of which The Voice was more than happy to report on. Dwulet eventually ran a retraction/apology, the Hoya staff finally (grudgingly) managed to clean every scrap of Voice newsprint from their office, and the hoopla eventually died down as life returned to normal.

But it didn’t stop there, did it, Georgetown? Enter The Heckler, which hails itself as “Georgetown University’s Humor Magazine of Record since 2003.” True to its name, the publication heckled The Hoya’s April Fool’s Day issue fallout, painting Hoya staffers as Klu Klux Klan members donning “the traditional costume of a flowing white robe, white hood, and white mask,” celebrating around a burning cross and hanging “human shaped piñatas” from the trees. The jokes were more subtle, but the punchline was clear: The Heckler was (jokingly) calling The Hoya staff racist – eight months after the fact. Which, hilariously snarky as it may have been, was a bad move and has apparently only succeeded in stirring up unresolved bad feelings from April. The Heckler staff has been swamped with calls and letters requesting (i.e. demanding) that the story be removed from its websites – requests that have been systematically shut down. Editor Jack Stuef, at a forum designed to respond to complaints, said that the staff was “of one mind” in their decision not to remove the article, adding that its intent was to “mock or criticize, in a darkly ironic way, the latent racist sentiments that were shown by the Hoya in the April issue.” In what can only be explained as an attempt to cover the university’s ass, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd A. Olson released a statement saying that “We condemn these attempts at humor,” calling the article “deeply hurtful and potentially destructive to the fabric of our campus community.”

Really? This is more destructive then the milk and cocoa puffs comment? Because that was just gross. What about the jab at affirmative action? The trivialization of interracial relationships? Are we even reading the same article, here? Where was this guy back in April? There’s a difference between the two articles. The Hoya came off like a bad Dane Cook joke, inflammatory under the guise of “April Fools!” and “it’s just a joke, y’all.” The Heckler was making FUN of this temporary lapse of journalistic integrity. Whether or not it was timely, appropriate or funny is irrelevant. Perhaps some of the imagery may have crossed the line, but this was sarcasm, not racism. One of these things is not like the other.

Though honestly, Georgetown, I think you need to leave the satirical news stories to The Onion. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion – then hitting replay and watching it again. All. Day. Long. Right, wrong, racist, sarcastic – you guys are just not funny, period. Well…except when you’re newspapering each other’s offices or hurling homophobic insults at each other over the internet while trying to prove who’s more professional. That was funny.


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