Another Student Press Comic Mess Erupts in Michigan

Although muted on a national level amid the Notre Dame Observer furor, another student press comic mess has been playing out in Michigan. A four-panel strip run in a recent issue of The Delta Collegiate at Delta College has critics crying racism.

The comic (below) presents a string of gentlemen greeting a visitor to Saginaw County, Mich., with fun facts about the area. The last greeter, sporting a black mask and offering the visitor illegal drugs, tosses out a confirmed real world statistic about Saginaw enduring the most violent crimes per resident in the U.S. (as of 2008).  The masked man then pulls a knife and demands the visitors’ money and drugs.

Some critics are claiming that the black color of the thug’s mask has overt racial overtones (basically that the comic is allegedly saying a black man would be the one with the drugs and violently criminal intent). As a Delta student said in a television report (check out full report below), “Some people found it inappropriate, especially the last part about the drugs and the guy with the black hoodie covering his head.  Some people thought it was racially offensive. Other people just thought it was offensive towards Saginaw.” Separately, the Delta College president stated, “Personally, I found the cartoon to be in poor taste, and I was disappointed.”

Collegiate staffers and its adviser are passionately denying any racial subtext to the strip (including arguing that the mask may be black but not the man under it).  Instead, they are rightly pointing out that those who feel it shows Saginaw in a bad light need to accept that the comic is presenting an illustrative, only slightly satirical truth.

The paper’s adviser, Kathie Marchlewski Bachleda (who is handling the press queries remarkably well): “There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that we’ve been able to spark a dialogue about this issue. . . . The idea that Saginaw is the most violent city in the country is certainly not flattering.  And so one of the things students hoped to do was to call attention to this problem, and say, ‘Here, we need to talk about this.'”

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