Yesterday, University of Texas- Austin student newspaper The Daily Texan won our coveted "Most Racist Trayvon Martin Cartoon" contest for Stephanie Eisner's "WHITE man" vs. "COLORED BOY" media critique pictured above. The paper briefly pulled the cartoon offline when the controversy struck, but put it back up last night, along with an editor's note. Today: the fallout.
Stephanie Eisner, political cartoonist for The Texan and the author of the cartoon, said she drew the cartoon in an attempt to criticize the media's portrayal of the issue. She said some of the media seems to be sensationalizing the facts and making race the more prominent aspect of the case.
"I feel the news should be unbiased. And in the retelling of this particular event, I felt that that was not the case," Eisner said. "My story compared this situation to yellow journalism in the past, where aspects of news stories were blown out of proportion with the intention of selling papers and enticing emotions."
Stephanie Eisner is a poor cartoonist with a poor understanding of the racial history of America and a poor understanding of how the modern media works and a poor understanding of "yellow journalism" and a poor understanding of the meaning of "unbiased." That is okay. Stephanie Eisner is young and we all were more or less ignorant of these topics at her age, though hopefully not with such racially ignorant flair. The outpouring of angry letters to the paper is rather heartening.
Also heartening is the fact that despite the righteous (and well deserved!) shitstorm of anger pouring down upon The Daily Texan, the paper's editors ultimately chose to leave the cartoon up, let the other side air its views, and cover the whole uproar as the news that it is, rather than disappearing the whole thing from its website and trying to lay low until it all blows over. This is what the media is supposed to do. May we all learn... something.
UPDATE: We just received the following emailed statement from Stephanie Eisner:
"I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting. I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused."