Daily Tar Heel Editor at UNC Defends Controversial Trayvon Martin Cartoon

The Daily Tar Heel is facing criticism from some student and alumni readers at the University of North Carolina for publishing an explicit nationally-syndicated cartoon about the Trayvon Martin saga.

As The Huffington Post confirms, late last week, the paper published an editorial illustration showing “police responding to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  A person identified as George Zimmerman tells a cop ‘This wasn’t about race.  I shot because I felt threatened.  Skittles are full of high fructose corn syrup.'”  Zimmerman is depicted speaking these words above Martin, who lays lifeless on the ground, donned in jeans and a gray hoodie, blood spritzing and pooling near his head.

DTH editor-in-chief Steven Norton writes that reader reaction to the cartoon has been intense.  In his words, “Thursday morning, I awoke to emails and tweets from angry readers reacting to today’s editorial cartoon featuring Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.  Fellow students took to Twitter and Facebook, threatening to uproot newspaper boxes and generally questioning the Daily Tar Heel’s motives for running the cartoon in the first place.”

One reader’s letter to the editor: “It deeply saddens me that today such an insensitive and heartbreaking cartoon was published. A mockery of a controversial death, an uncalled for attempt of jest– it is a poor representation of our great university.  A life was taken, a life which held promise for a family.  I wonder if the cartoonist thought about Trayvon’s family, his friends, his loved ones.”

A portion of another letter: “In the future, please consider the repercussions surrounding such a sensitive issue before displaying such a morbid depiction of someone’s son. Trayvon Martin was a real person who was murdered; we shouldn’t make a cartoon of that.”

In a letter of his own, Norton defends the cartoon’s placement in the paper, even while admitting other staffers were against it and that its graphic nature may have undermined its larger message: “I stand by it, despite the fact that many people– including my editorial board– believe that this nationally syndicated cartoon should not have run in the DTH.  I believe it raises legitimate points concerning the Martin case by calling attention to the absurdity of the situation: Zimmerman’s defense, the police response (or lack thereof) and Florida’s so-called stand your ground law. . . . I do worry that this cartoon’s means distract from its ends: to mourn and admonish a tragedy that is, at once, the Martin family’s and the nation’s.”

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