Panelist makes racist comment

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, students and professors gathered in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication Lecture Hall for “Disappearing Ink,” a panel discussion about the decline of editorial cartoonists.

The discussion was okay, at the beginning that is. It was obvious there was no diversity on the panel. The panel consisted of four middle-age white men: Ed Hall, Artizans Syndicate; Andy Marlette, Pensacola News Journal; Jeff Parker, Florida Today (Melbourne); and Rob Smith Jr.,

It is understood that we can’t always have diverse panels just because we’re at a Historically Black University.

I have no problem with that because I know the world I’m about to enter does not look like FAMU, as much as I would like it to. But when there’s an all white panel, the participates should know how to communicate, according to the environment their in.

That’s one of the jobs of being a good journalist.

Writing and drawing isn’t the only skill one must obtain.

We must know about different cultures as well.

Because diversity is important to most FAMU students, many questions were asked about diversity within the editorial cartoonist field. Our questions weren’t directly answered. As a matter of fact they weren’t answered at all. But the icing on the cake was when Andy Marlette said, “N**** Please!”

A cloud of dissension hovered over the lecture hall as no one knew how to react to something that had just slapped everyone in the face. Silence filled the room until one student shouted, “Say what?”

Then most of the room burst into laughter to ease the situation, and the discussion continued even though most students were furious at what Marlette said. How were we supposed to respond- riot?

What led to the remark was when Marlette explained a controversial cartoon he drew in 2005 at the University of Florida that had Kanye West holding the race card, and Condoleezza Rice opposite of him saying, “N****, please!”

Now, I’m not sure what made Marlette think it was okay to draw that cartoon, let alone say the N-word aloud and in front of over 70 black students. It was appalling and a disgrace. We have gone through too much as a people to allow a white person to come into our house and say the N-word without any regard. The more shameful thing was no one, myself included, decided to say anything. Well, I’m saying something now.

It does not matter that he was explaining a cartoon. It does not matter if he thought it would be okay because we are part of the hip-hop generation and that’s part of the hip-hop language.

I can’t just go to a Ku Klux Klan meeting and say, “What’s up crackas?”

This was a wake up call for the students that sat in the lecture hall that day. It tells us our viewpoint is not the same as many people in the working arena. Most of all, I hope it was a wake up call to Marlette and the rest of the panel who witnessed the uneasy reaction from the entire audience.

Now the question lies: Who’s to blame for this incident? Some may think Marlette is to blame because he should have known better and should have chosen better language to use. This is true. I couldn’t agree more, but the blame is on us.

Everyday we unconsciously call our friends the N-word, I’m guilty as well. I know there are arguments that say we can use the word because some words are only used in a particular clique. I agree with that argument as well, but let’s think about where the word derived from. We must understand that if we use the N-word, it will give justification to other groups to use it as well.

Nevertheless, Marlette is wrong, and I think we deserve an apology. What Marlette said was rude, demeaning and insensitive, and we do not have to take it. Not now, not ever. So FAMU, in the infamous words of “School Daze,” its time we, “WAKE UP!”

Marlon Williams is a senior public relations student from Tallahassee.  He can be reached at