Landcaster Newspapers ‘Deeply Sorry’ for Slaveship-Airline Seating Comparison


*Oh joy. Another apology. Here we go again.

If you’ve read articles here over the past few weeks, you’ll understand the statement. If not, I spoke of how the apology – at least coming in the form of a statement from a business, seems to be losing its value or authenticity. Every time a business is accused of racism, based on some foolish, blatant act, they already seem to have a statement set-to-go about how they don’t tolerate racism in the workplace “so we’re sorry if we offended yaddy, yaddy, yah.” Now, a Pennsylvania newspaper is apologizing for not thinking first, before they chose to publish a cartoon that compares the lack of comfort on modern-day air travel to the so-called “Middle Passage” — the trans-Atlantic leg of the slave trade that involved transporting captive Africans to the Americas to be sold into bondage.

They realized the insensitive error and have since deleted the image, but not before it was seen by some folks in the African American community. The cartoon ran in the Lancaster New Era last Saturday and depicts an elderly white couple studying a picture of a slave ship and thinking, “Must be where they got their idea for passenger seating.” From this we are to recall the hellish conditions under which African men, women and children were forcibly transported to the Americas and compare them to the present-day problem of uncomfortable seating on airplanes.

Yeah. Stupid and insensitive. But humans can be that way sometimes. In this case, it probably wasn’t done to be intentionally mean-spirited. Still, they should’ve thought longer than the millisecond they tried to be flippant with the airlines. If they had, they would’ve realized who the comparison would really hurt.

John A. Kirkpatrick, the president of Lancaster Newspapers, and Barb Roda, the company’s executive editor, issued a statement Thursday, writing that they were “deeply sorry” for publishing the cartoon and ensuring readers that they would “promise to do better.”

That’s uniquely sincere. They will “promise to do better.” I haven’t that in the unauthentic, uniformed apology statement I mentioned previously. Maybe there’s hope after all. And they took it a step further and owned up to what they did, with a statement that showed they understood why it was offensive.

“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,” Kirkpatrick and Roda wrote.

Then they went on Twitter and apologized, using a quote from an unnamed Lancaster County pastor to further bring the point home.

“The African Slave trade was our holocaust and to a majority of sane African Americans it is painful for us to even entertain,” said an unnamed Lancaster County pastor quoted in the paper’s apology.

At first it wasn’t clear who the artist that drew the cartoon was, but a post on the newspaper’s Twitter account on Thursday said that the cartoon “was not drawn by someone on our staff, [but] the decision to run it on our pages was made here.” Since that time a reader of Huffington Post named Chet Williamson learned the identity of the artist, named Robert Ariail. The original cartoon can be seen here at Ariail’s website.]

Read the full apology here.

2 thoughts on “Landcaster Newspapers ‘Deeply Sorry’ for Slaveship-Airline Seating Comparison”

  1. I wonder what you would say if the cartoon was a German World War Two box car loaded with folk on there way to the ovens. I guess in your mind that would be a little off color but no harm done. I fully understand how you can take the position you have and it must be because of your ignorance of the entire Middle Passage saga. If you really knew the story you might not so cavalierly write in such a manner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *