Wesley College newspaper editor speaks out over controversial cartoons
Kristen Griffith is the editor-in-chief of the Whetstone, the independent student newspaper at Wesley College. She and a student artist, who is also Black, have been the focus of backlash all week for publishing what some are calling “racially charged” cartoons. Griffith admits she had “no idea” they would get such a large response.
There have been dozens of online posts across the nation and a letter from the college’s president, Robert E. Clark. His statement reads in part, “I was disappointed by the depiction, and, as the president of this college, I apologize to everyone in our family, as well as anyone else who viewed and was offended by the depiction.”
Griffith says, “I definitely understood where people were coming from when they said they didn’t like it and were hurt and offended by it.”
However, Griffith isn’t necessarily apologizing. She goes on, “The Whetstone is truly the voice of the students, not just the majority opinion, but all opinions.”
In the first cartoon published, the student artist drew a black woman wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, saying she was late for her abortion. The second cartoon shows a garden hoe talking to a pimp.
Griffith explained to 47 ABC the messages the artist was trying to convey. She says the first image draws attention to hypocrisy in the Black Lives Matter movement. While the movement hopes to raise awareness of young black lives recently lost in police involved altercations, Griffith says the image pits this against the high rate of abortions in the black community.
Griffith notes the message behind the second picture is to explain that the way you present yourself is the way people see you.
Griffith says she acknowledges how these images could be easily misinterpreted…”I was hesitant about putting it in. But, then I thought it would be very hypocritical, just because as an editor, I try to promote freedom of speech.”
Griffith says she doesn’t necessarily agree with the cartoons messages. However, she is glad it’s started a dialogue about the racial divide on campus that she says is rarely openly discussed.
She continues, “I do hope there’s more conversations about race because of this.”
Friday was the last day of finals. Griffith and the newspaper staff are going home for the summer. She says when they come back next year, they plan to continue to publish the way they always have, with the goal is to express the opinions of all students.