Georgetown Heckler Under Fire for Satirical Article on Cross Burnings and the KKK

2009 has become the year of satirical and racial controversy within Georgetown University’s student media. More than eight months ago, Georgetown students staged a sit-in protest criticizing perceived racial insensitivities within the April Fool’s edition of the Hoya campus newspaper. Now, a student humor magazine that attempted to poke fun at the Hoya incident is facing similar criticisms.

The Georgetown Heckler recently published a smolderingly satirical article in which Hoya staffers aim to wash away their perceived racial slights at year’s end through a holiday-themed ceremony. For the ceremony, the Hoya team is portrayed as white robe-wearing, lynch-happy cross burners akin to the KKK. A portion of the piece (bolding by me, in case you’re just scanning):

The event began Friday . . . 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 [name omitted by me] 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. . . . We’ve been slaving over this ceremony for weeks and it’s great to see it running so smoothly.”  In addition to the cross lighting, the Hoya drove the idea home by hanging dark, human-shaped piñatas from . . . trees, representing the demons of the past.

Jubilant <i>Hoya</i> staffers taking part in the annual tradition

The photo run with the Heckler piece.

The Heckler is now taking heat from students, faculty, and administrators who ‘get’ the larger stab at a joke, but are not laughing- saying the article did not satirize as much as inflame the racial hullabaloo hanging over the D.C. school. As one Georgetown student, the president of university’s NAACP chapter, declared, “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.” The most vigorous critics have pointed out that this piece is not the Heckler‘s first controversial racial satire (many are citing another recent article headlined “It’s Not a Hate Crime If You Love Doing It”). Stemming from the controversy, a community forum on “Racism and Satire” was held on campus last night.

The Heckler‘s top editor told Washington City Paper he stands by the article. A Heckler writer offered what I feel is the strongest defense, even summoning the spirit of Stephen Colbert: “I think the basic problem is people are throwing around the word satire without understanding what it actually means. The point of satire is to critique a position by adopting it, and pointing out its ridiculousness. Think of stephen colbert, he makes fun of right wing pundits by acting like them. . . . The whole point is not to laugh with racism, but at it and laugh at the people who commit racist acts. The real irony of the situation is that the whole point of the heckler was to denounce racial ignorance.”

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