There’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot happening over at Montclair State University thanks to a “controversial” episode of the Keith Knight comic strip, The K Chronicles, that was published last week in the student newspaper, the Montclarion, and included the word “nigger”.
Well, kind of…
Seemingly lost on most of those in a tizzy over the strip (reading some of the comments is just one more reason to not take anything for granted before the election results are in and officially certified) is the fact that Knight was simply repeating a story told by a canvasser in Western Pennsylvania, where conventional wisdom has it that people are simply too racist to support Obama, as evidenced partly by Hillary Clinton’s thumping him out there during the primary.
It’s a story that’s been referenced in several places over the past week or so, and Knight’s take on it was simply addressing what has become one of the more fascinating sub-plots of this election as the economy has taken center stage and helped turn John McCain’s ill-conceived selling of his soul campaign into a sputtering hot mess: Racists for Obama.
“I wouldn’t want a mixed marriage for my daughter, but I’m voting for Obama,” the wife of a retired Virginia coal miner, Sharon Fleming, told the Los Angeles Times recently.
One Obama volunteer told Politico after canvassing the working-class white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, “I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are … undecided. They would call him a [racial epithet] and mention how they don’t know what to do because of the economy.”
Knight’s strip, The K Chronicles (which I reviewed the 3rd collection of a few years back, and was one of the judges for the 2006 Glyph Awards when it won Best Comic Strip) are typically one-page, semi-autobiographical snippets of life, frequently socio-political and poignant; occasionally more sobering than funny. Knight is Aaron (Boondocks) McGruder’s less self-conscious sibling, but with more range. His humor is effortless and rarely didactic, and his stories frequently overwhelm his simple line art, at times literally taking over a panel or even an entire strip.
The “controversial” strip is anything but to anyone who’s actually been following the election beyond the AP headlines and evening news soundbites, and some of the offended reactions say more about the people claiming offense than the strip or the Montclarion’s editorial judgement.
In an ironic twist, the paper was recently granted its independence from the oversight of the school’s Student Government Association.
The Montclarion, the feisty weekly published on campus since 1928, officially severed ties with the Student Government Association on Sept. 17. The split, which was arranged by university president Susan Cole, means the paper will no longer receive funding from the SGA — and the SGA will no longer have the power to stop the presses from rolling, as it did last year.
The “new” Montclarion was born of the controversy that erupted last winter and drew national headlines. The Montclarion, in its role as watchdog over the SGA, sought to obtain the minutes of the closed-door session held by the student government. When the SGA didn’t turn over the minutes, The Montclarion hired its own attorney for a $5,000 retainer.
The SGA maintained that because The Montclarion was part of student government, it had no right to its own attorney. As punishment, the SGA withheld the newspaper’s $2,000 allocation for printing costs and that prevented the newspaper from publishing its first edition of the spring semester.
If only the mainstream media had that kind of backbone and independence!
ETA: Keith Knight responds to the uproar at the Daily Cross Hatch.