Donkey’s disrespect not a laughing matter
By biconews On 1 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

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Irritating students with stories about adult magazine subscriptions, or provoking them with stereotypes of bi-co students, does not warrant a call for student self-censorship. Censorship is warranted only when a publication violates the principles of the community at the most fundamental level. In publishing dead baby ‘jokes,’ dead wife ‘jokes,’ anti-disabled ‘jokes,’ and ‘humor’ about racial epithets and the Ku Klux Klan, The Incontinent Donkey demonstrated a total disregard for the “trust, concern and respect” needed in a community built upon an Honor Code.

It violated the right of students to avoid being demeaned because of gender, sexual orientation or ethnic background.

It is possible to question how cartoons, or other material from a student humor publication such as the Donkey, could threaten students. No one is forced to read any campus magazine, and no one is forced to take any campus publication seriously.

It is not possible, however, to avoid the horrible seriousness of a picture of a Klansman, or of the pernicious pairing of a wheelchairbound person and a vegetable.

Reproducing a website photo of a racist ‘game show,’ with its white-robed guest, scantily-clad hostess and array of ethnic slurs, is another display of this mindless and dangerous mentality.

The brutal history of the KKK is akin to dark legacy of the Nazis. It is a history of slavery and murder and not one to be taken lightly. To this day the violence perpetuated by the Klan continues to infiltrate our society. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 12 illegal incidents directly involving the Klan in Pennsylvania in 1998. If such figures are added to the inestimable violence committed by this organization over the last century, we cannot just relegate the alleged humor of the Donkey picture to the category of “gallows humor.” There is simply no humor there.

The picture’s caption, which compares the Klan to Haverford’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, falls flat on its senseless face. If the Donkey could point to any specific incidents of racism at the Office, it could have material for a real joke. The situation remains, however, that it is the Donkey, not the Office, that has made light of a history of racial violence, and has made off-hand allusions to anti-Semitic, anti-gay and anti-female sentiments.

This is not to recommend that we attempt to vacuum all humor from complex and difficult issues. Satire and irony often allow us to explore an issue without stifling seriousness. There is a significant difference, however, between this kind of leavening humor and a misdirected attempt to fill the pages of a humor magazine. There is also a difference between tolerating someone’s sense of humor, and condoning cheap and abusive jokes that economize on respect by using others. It is of grave concern that the students who accept the Donkey ‘s contents show an acceptance of humor that plays slurs against people of any race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The bottom line is that no one at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr would dare to use the slurs printed in the Donkey in the dining halls or in a classroom; we know that uttering such degrading oaths against people is not acceptable. We need to acknowledge that printing such statements in the Donkey is no more appropriate. A community in which we recognize and respect how our language and our actions affect each other is far more important than having a humor magazine, whether it is entertaining or, as in the case of The incontinent Donkey, not.

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