Reported by Liku Zelleke
Lancaster New Era, a Pennsylvanian newspaper, has gone on Twitter to apologize for a tasteless cartoon that compared modern-day air travel to the horrible conditions slaves had to endure while being transported in the holds of slave ships.
The cartoon that was printed in the paper’s Saturday edition and circulated last week, was not drawn by any of its employees but readers still thought that the New Era was responsible for the gaffe.
In the cartoon, two elderly white people are shown looking at a big image that shows the way slaves were packed into the holds of slave ships. During the Middle Passage, (the voyage across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas) slaves were stuffed into the ships.
One of the people in the cartoon says, “Must be where the airlines got their ideas for passenger seating.”
So many slaves were crammed into every available space on the ship that many of them died during the voyage. It was this horrible fact that was being compared to the way people travelled by air today — narrow seats, almost no leg space, shared armrests … all factors that were viable reasons for air rage, at the very worst.
But readers couldn’t stomach the comparison and John A. Kirkpatrick, the president of Lancaster Newspapers, and Barb Roda, the company’s executive director, had to make an apology for the cartoon.
In the statement they both Tweeted was written, “To somehow link the inconveniences of air travel with slavery in general and the slave ships in particular was not only just plain wrong, it was deeply hurtful to our African-American community and all those who understand the horrors inflicted on the men and women forced into the slave trade.”
The two tweets read: “…While the editorial cartoon was not drawn by someone on our staff, the decision to run it on our pages was made here. We are deeply sorry about printing this offensive cartoon. We cannot erase the error we made last week.”