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University student paper calls white people 'disgusting' in 'guilt-free MLK' satire blurb

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A Rice University student-run newspaper issued an explanation after publishing a "guilt-free MLK day" coupon in its Jan. 10 issue, which called white people "disgusting."

What happened?

Rice University's student-run newspaper, The Rice Thresher, published a coupon for a "guilt-free MLK day" on its back page under the "Penny Saver" section.

The coupon 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 in a sock and wondering whatever happened to your 8th grade girlfriend. You're disgusting."

Did the university respond?

The university on its Twitter page acknowledged the controversial coupon — which they called an "offensive attempt at satire" — and noted that while the school does believe in a free press, it doesn't agree with the published sentiment.

"The student-run Rice Thresher has a history of satire on its backpage," a Friday tweet read. "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."

Did the newspaper clarify?

A Thresher staff editorial published on Friday explained that the "satirical" blurb was published with intent to spark discussion about Martin Luther King Jr. Day — or, in their words, "an opportunity to discuss the meaning that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has to us at the Thresher."

"The purpose of the 'ad' in the Backpage was to encourage students to reflect on the meaning of the holiday rather than use it simply as another vacation day without classes," the editorial read. "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 went on to explain the ad's last line, which advised "white people" that they are "disgusting."

"The final line, 'You’re disgusting,' regards the previous sentence’s reference to 'beating off into a sock,'" the write-up continued. "It was not meant to address all white people, which we realize may have been unclear."

The editorial later added that the "controversy" that resulted in response to the paper's offensive ad sparked an opportunity to discuss the greater meaning that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has to those at the newspaper.

While the progress made since 1963 is undeniable, we still live in a system designed to favor white people at the expense of others. It’s wrong to argue that the reference to race in the 'ad' is just as unacceptable as if a minority group were addressed rather than the white majority.

This ignores the fact that racism exists in a context, and in this country, the context is the generations of oppression and slavery suffered by one minority at the hands of the majority. Given this fact, a satirical jab at the behavior of many white people cannot be compared to a similar jab at those that have suffered from the brutal history of racism in this country.

The editorial explained that the paper's content is not intended to cause offense, noting that satire is a difficult concept to effectively straddle, and expressed the staff's disappointment that the university administration found the ad — or as it was called in the editorial, "a part of a Backpage intended to target issues of institutional racism and general apathy" — to be "contrary to the values of the university."

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