Student Newspaper at Alberta Apologizes for “Racist Jokes”

The editor in chief of The Gateway, the student newspaper at the University of Alberta, is apologizing for a satirical feature in the newspaper that included comments some readers found racially insensitive toward a pair of Indian students.

According to a Vancouver Sun report, the paper publishes an annual satire piece aimed at mocking the colorful, smiling campaign posters placed around campus by candidates for student union positions.  At one point in this year’s critique, headlined “Poster Slam 2010,” a candidate is called “a healthy brown guy.” The piece later states about a candidate: “He’s pretty much the love interest in a Bollywood blockbuster. If he’s elected, someone’s going to ring a gong at the next BoG meeting, and everyone will burst into song and dance.”

An Alberta student’s response to the piece: “Just because racist jokes are meant in jest doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. It’s not like [these jokes] are that hard to avoid.” And as the Sun noted, “It didn’t help when on election night, all five winners making up the next students’ council executive team were young, Caucasian males.

Amid the incident’s quick-boil rise to controversy, the editor released a public message of regret for any perceived or actual harm caused:

Poster Slam, in addition to many other annual features printed in the Gateway, has a long-standing reputation of being humourous and inane, distilling the often too-serious nature of Students’ Union elections into a format that is enjoyable for the average student. . . . Any statements made in these articles are not intended to cause serious harm to the reputation of their subjects, whether in regards to their campaign platforms, race, gender, sexuality, ability, or any other factors that may be visible in the public consciousness. And nowhere will the Gateway state or imply that any candidate is unfit for political office based on any visible minority status, nor do its panellists hold such sentiments. However, despite our editorial board’s best efforts to ensure this is always the case, at times, an act of poor judgement may still cause offence to the candidates or to our readers at large.

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