A comic strip by African-American cartoonist Keith Knight that used the N-word has caused an apology at Montclair State University. The episode of Knight’s syndicated weekly comic, The K Chronicles, adapted a real-life incident that used the racial epithet in relation to Barack Obama. The appearance of the strip in the school paper upset readers.

Angry students have complained to the university’s dean of students, other campus officials and the editors since the strip ran Thursday in The Montclarion, which has a circulation of about 4,000.

“My heart just dropped when I read it,” said Tamar VanDerVeer, 21, a senior who serves as secretary of the Organization of Students for African Unity, a campus group. “I’m trying to find something positive in the situation, but being a senior at Montclair State, a very diverse school, the ignorance is really uncalled for. They really hurt us.”

Knight issued a statement about the incident at his blog, which reads in part:

Is it offensive? Yes. Is it sad? Sure. But that’s the reality of the United States and this very unique election.

We have the first African-American candidate for president who could actually win. And folks of all colors are coming face-to-face with bias and race issues they didn’t know about, have ignored or pretended didn’t exist. Neighbors, co-workers, and family members are learning a little more about the society we live in.

The comic is pointing out one aspect of it. Straight-up racists are prepared to pull the lever for a black man. While some folks out there, who never thought they were prejudiced, aren’t going to vote for him because of his skin color.

Should we ignore stuff like this? I don’t think so.

Should it be in a comic strip. Yes!!

Nevertheless, Bobby Melok, the editor of the paper, issued an apology, explaining that since the strip came through a cartoon syndicate, it hadn’t been checked for content.

“Many of you have voiced your displeasure with this cartoon, as is your right,” Melok wrote. “It is never The Montclarion’s intention to offend its readership, and we sincerely apologize to all who were upset with this comic.”

Read the strip for yourself in the first link.


  1. College paper uses a strip from a syndicate!? Shame! They’re sucking up student fees to be part of the education, not an entertainment broker.

  2. Quite frankly, I have no problem with this.

    Are we to deny that such attitudes exist?

    I realize the negative power of the “N-word”, and how truly offensive it is. But the context here illuminates a very real mind-set amongst some Americans.

    Such attitudes need to be confronted, not just swept under the rug.

  3. I found Keith Knight’s *partial* use of the word inventive.
    The word isn’t fully spelled out and it’s obvious that it’s considered offensive by the volunteer’s reaction.
    So it’s inappropriate to allude to the word in a strip that’s making a valid social observation, but few complain when it’s thrown about in films like “Pulp Fiction” or hurled left and right in rap music.

    As far as I can tell, branding it the “N word” has only strengthened its impact when it’s used to insult or incite.

  4. Does it matter if it’s based on a real-life incident, I wonder? Does that change your interpretation of it?

    Is it even satire if it’s simply relaying a true anecdote?

    These are the questions I think about.

  5. I believe if Jonathan Swift published “A Modest Proposal” today we’d be reading about aggrieved Irish people demanding an apology.

    If you don’t understand satire, your college education has been a waste of time and money.

  6. A brilliant cartoon and one that I think shows how a lot of America really is like, especially with the older community. I know for one that if my 92 year old grandfather was still alive, he wouldn’t vote for Obama simply because he’s black. There are plenty like that. The cartoon did have an Edith and Archie Bunker feel to it to me for some reason. “Archie, who are we voting for?”