Guilt-free MLK ad riles up Thresher readers

Guilt-free MLK ad riles up Rice Thresher readers

A satirical ad on the Backpage of the Jan. 10 Rice (University) Thresher in Houston caused a flurry of publicity and tweets encouraging violence again Thresher staff, demanding parents remove their children’s college funds from the university, and accusing the newspaper of racism.

The ad read: Hey, there, white people! We know. You have a day off to celebrate someone who managed to beat your system. Don’t despair – for the low price of eternal shame you can spend these 24 hours doing something productive like beating off into a sock and wondering whatever happened to your 8th grade girlfriend. You’re disgusting.

Backpage.pngIn reply to the University’s response to the ad, Sandy Sutton tweeted: “So this is acceptable writing? We notice you didn’t Change the whole staff at the paper. No more donations from my entire family.”

In contrast Estevan Delgado retorted that “As a Rice Alum (and a POC) – god forbid we tempt people to ponder the past. I’ve seen worse back pages. What side of history are you on?”

The University responded to the ad by suggesting readers forward comments to thresher@rice.edu.

“The student-run Rice Thresher has a history of satire on its backpage. Rice does not manage the content but is disappointed w/this offensive attempt at satire, which is contrary to our values. We support a free press, even if we don’t agree. Comments can go to thresher@rice.edu,” the University tweeted.

Publication of the ad was covered by Fox News, College Fix, Inside Higher Ed and Nation One. Adviser Kelley Lash said her students were “super chill” about the incident in spite of the threats aimed at the editors.

In its Jan. 12 response to the backlash from the ad the newspaper’s editorial board described the Backpage as “consisting of advertisements that poke fun at different events going on at Rice and in the world at large.” The purpose of the ad, the editorial stated, was to encourage students to reflect on the meaning of the holiday rather than use it simply as another vacation day without classes.

“The reference to masturbation, of course, is crude, as much of the Backpage’s humor has been in its several decades of existence,” the editorial said.

Much of the hostility towards the ad seemed to focus not so much on the masturbation reference but in what appeared to be the newspaper calling white people disgusting. Twenty-nine percent of the student population at Rice University is white.

The editorial staff argued that the “you’re disgusting” statement referred to white people beating off into a sock not to white people in general.

“Which we realize may have been unclear,” the staff editorial stated.

The ad gave the staff the opportunity to address the fact that while progress has been made since 1963 that “we still live in a system designed to favor white people at the expense of others.” Racism exists in the context of generations of oppression and slavery suffered by one population at the hands of another, the editorial said. The ad’s satirical reference to white behavior does not compare, in the staff’s opinion, to that tradition.

“We do not ask the university to stand with our editorial content on every occasion, but we are disheartened that Rice’s administration finds a part of a Backpage intended to target issues of institutional racism and general apathy to be “contrary to the values of the university,” the editorial said. Read the entire editorial response here.

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